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Book: The Woman In Black

January 18, 2009

Finally! A scary story that actually gave me (poor, pitiful, jaded old me) chills.

I should have saved this for a stormy night, but it was from the library and I couldn’t wait any longer, so I had to have it, sunny weather or not.

Written in a charmingly straightforward and storytelling style, The Woman In Black is a fairly traditional English-gothic style ghost story. The suspense and atmosphere build, as does the feeling of dread and anticipation of… of what, we don’t know, but we know it’s awful.

Arthur Kipps, young lawyer, is dispatched to a distant village to take care of the last affairs of a certain Mrs. Drablow, local recluse. As soon as he nears the village, the strangeness begins. People are reluctant to talk about Mrs. Drablow, and encourage him not to go to her house at all. He can’t get any more details than this. At her funeral (attended by no one except he and the local solicitor), Arther sees a mysterious woman in black, seemingly paying her last respects. When he mentions this woman to the solicitor, he gets a frightened response.

Finally, he must go out to her house to go through her papers. Located in the middle of a desolate marsh filled with treacherous quicksand, reachable only by a thin path (which disappears as the tide comes in, so you can only come and go at certain times of day), the house is dread itself. Soon, Arthur begins to know why no one will accompany him out there.

A series of ever-increasingly terrible things happen (all very spooky and genuinely scary), until finally Arthurs nerves cannot take it. And then… the worst of all happens.

What can I say? It was a perfect story. It was exactly what I wish Turn of the Screw had been (in fact, it’s set up much like Turn of the Screw in the beginning). It was fun to read, with perfect pacing and all the elements of a good ghost story: English marshes, a big dreadful house, a spectral woman in black, a dead child, scared locals, thick fogs… and it had an adorable doggie in the story as well, which turned out to be such an effective plot device. Also, my version had some really charming illustrations.

I loved it. I wish I had saved it for this year’s R.I.P. challenge, but I just couldn’t wait.

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