Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Woman in Black by Susan Hills: Old Fashioned Horror at its Eerie Best

What is a book lover and a fan of the horror/ghost story genre supposed to do when the market is inundated with tedious tales about gorgeous vampires/werewolves with a penchant for manufacturing drama and making much ado about nothing? You strap yourself into a time machine and head for the past or pick up Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black", an old fashioned ghost story narrated by Arthur Kipps in a desperate bid to escape "from under the long shadow cast by the events of the past.", The narrator then proceeds to take the reader into the dread events that almost proved to be his undoing long years ago, when as a young solicitor who did not believe in ghosts he found himself in Eel Marsh House, to sort out the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs. Alice Drablow. Incidentally, the said creepy mansion is isolated from the town it is situated in, by a causeway that can only be traversed in low tide. 
Hill does full justice to the material at hand and wields her pen like a virtuoso to create a chilling atmosphere that is hauntingly beautiful but nevertheless fills even hardened horror aficionados with mounting dread that subsequently oscillates between pity (for the victim as well as persecutor) and terror.
The ghost's back story is skilfully woven and to use a somewhat perverse metaphor given the context in question it feels like digging into a particularly succulent drumstick chicken with plenty of meat and a juicy bone to gnaw upon. The road to the end is carefully constructor and even as the reader hurtles towards it with a sense of the inevitable it still packs a wallop.
"The Woman in Black" is definitely something to be prescribed for those who are heartily sick of vampires. 

1 comment:

Balaji said...

hv not read the book. but saw the movie. quite scary stuff. as u correctly observed, much more subtle than pedestrian vampire stuff. and as usual a well written review :-)