A Chilling Revival of Gothic Horror | Review of The Woman in Black


By: Cynthia Ayala

Arthur Kipps was sent to a small town of Crythin Gifford to collect the documents of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. But in a house that is secluded and separated from the small little town by a deadly marsh that with tides that rise and fall, Kipps is trapped in the secluded house. Or so he thinks. Night after night, he finds himself haunted by sounds throughout the house, by a woman in black who appears around the house, wondering the grounds, disappearing as silently. However, seeing her has a deadly price and Kipps will be lucky to leave the land alive.

The Woman in Black, first published on October 10, 1983 by Hamish Hamilton, is a gothic ghost story written by Susan Hill. The novel follows the memories of Arthur Kipps as he relives his own real life ghost story at the insistence of his wife and children one Christmas Holiday. Relieving his memories, he recounts his encounter with the Woman in Black, the vengeful spirit of Eel Marsh house.

Hill decided to take another approach in telling this story, taking on a classic view of this ghost story and build it form within the setting of the story. When readers pick up this spooky novella and begin to read it, nothing about the style gives away the fact that it was written in the 1980’s. Everything about this story is very archaic, resembling the works of Charles Dickens at times, capturing the Victorian Era as though she was there. Her story and the way that she writes submerges the reader into the era in which the story takes place. Everything about The Woman in Black is Gothic from the language to the setting building the fright factor of the story.

That being said, readers should approach this as a 19th century story rather than a 20th century story due to the textile and the structure, making it something that readers are not accustomed to in todays’ day in age. So at times, the story seems slow, especially when nothing seems to happen. However, this has a redeeming feature of catching the reader off guard and scaring the reader like the character. There is no way for the reader to differentiate between themselves and Arthur Kipps as Hill submerges their senses into the novel, and that is what makes it such a terrifying story to read. (★★★☆☆ | B)

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