This is a ghost story in it’s most classic of forms. We are used to haunting spirits and evil demons hidden around every corner, but when we get to the heart of most stories, we forget what it would really be like to encounter a hostile spirit.
Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black does not forget. As the story opens, we are introduced to our protagonist Arthur Kipps joining his family around the fire for some festive story telling on Christmas eve. The children choose to tell horror stories and are surprised to find that Arthur is not only unreceptive to them, but refuses to tell a story of his own. Arthur leaves the house and explains to the reader that he cannot tell a ghost story because for him such tales are all too real. We are then thrown into his past where a young Arthur Kipps is sent to settle the affairs of the late Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. It is here that our tale really begins because in that old and heavily avoided house there is something dark and not wholly pleasant awaiting the young Mr. Kipps.
Things I loved:
- It’s simple horrors. Think about the times you are most frightened. It is often when you are at home alone and you feel that presence near you or hear a noise in the distance. This story calls on all of these chilling experiences. It requires no blood lust or sudden frights. It creeps up on you, and that is the most frightening thing of all.
- The language. In true Gothic form this book describes the beauty of nature and goes into great detail on the feelings that it inspires.
- The ending. It left me with a chill in my heart.
Things I Didn’t Like:
- It gets a bit wordy. It could truthfully have been condensed by about a few thousand words and held the same effect if not greater.
“Whatever was about, whoever I had seen, and heard rocking, and who had passed me by just now, whoever had opened the locked door was not ‘real’. No. But what was ‘real’? At that moment I began to doubt my own reality.”
I loved this novel. If you are looking for a ghost story that will leave you questioning the existence of spirits or just looking for an interesting tale to peak your interests, I highly recommend this short story. It’s beautifully written and leaves you wanting more.
Sophie Hatter is a completely normal girl. Well, normal in that she lives in the land of Ingary where fairy tales and magic are real. Normal in that she was placed under a curse by the Witch of the Waste (a curse that she is physically unable to discuss) and must now set out in search of her fortunes, despite being the eldest of three sisters which means she is inevitably doomed to fail.She stumbles across the castle of the Wizard Howl (who is rumored to eat the souls of young women), but all of that is normal enough I suppose. Adventures abound as Sophie attempts to break her own curse whilst figuring out the mysteries surrounding Howl and his fire demon Calcifer.
Things I loved:
The characters. What a beautiful cast this story has! Each character is uniquely lovely and I found myself smitten with each one. Sophie is very human and easy to relate to. Howl is simply lovable with his mood swings. Even the Witch of the Waste has a hauntingly intriguing quality about her. I couldn’t help but laugh at Cal’s funny antics and side comments, and having seen the film, I genuinely loved the depth that Sophie’s sisters had. (Something lacking in the film as they are not a main player.
The writing style. A mixture of fantasy and a conversation with a good friend…if that makes sense?
Things I didn’t like:
If you are looking for an epic fantasy adventure, this isn’t it. It was often presented to me as such and so that is what I was looking for. It is more of a fantasy based mystery and I loved it for that, but it always takes a while to settle into a book with a different genre than you were expecting.
“Things are going round and round in my head–or maybe my head is going round and round in things.”
If you are a fan of fairy tale novels and books that throw you into a whirl wind adventure outside of your own, you’ll love it. If you are a fan of the movie, prepare for a longer tale that is quite different, but equally enchanting!