The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

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Mist. Quicksands. Encroaching fog with finger-like tendrils. A house in a marsh with a tide which prevents an easy escape.  A gaunt figure dressed in black which appears sporadically in graveyards, or behind trees. A child’s cry rising to a scream of terror before falling away into silence…

It’s odd, perhaps, that with only 164 pages it has taken me a week to read this ghost story. And yet, with my capability of visualization, it is not really odd at all. I am easily frightened, quick to imagine untold things in the dark and shadowed recesses of any given place.

I particularly dislike reading about locked doors and a familiar, but unidentifiable, sound – bump bump pause, bump bump pause – repeating itself throughout the night. For intertwined with the discernible is the terror that something has gone just the slightest bit wrong. This is what makes horror stories so frightening, the edge on which they dance between normal emotion and our deepest fears.

If you’re looking for a story this October that won’t take the few weeks left remaining, but offers up the irresistible chill of an insatiable ghost, this might be just the one. And I could lend you Samantha, in spirit, to keep you company as you read.

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28 thoughts on “The Woman in Black by Susan Hill”

  1. What a wonderful choice for an October read! I was planning on picking up ‘The Woman in White’ as my spooky October read, but other books got in the way and it does make me feel intimidated..

    P.S. My cat is the exact same kind of tabby as yours 😛

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    1. Oh, The Woman in White is a fabulous book! The writing (and length) cannot compare to this one, which ends up being creepy but predictable. I have read Wilke Collins’ masterpeice, to me anyway, twice, and each time loved it.

      The tabby was a gift to my son from his girlfriend in high school, but I have come to consider her my cat. She will sit and read with me in the evening, and put makeup on with me in the morning; I can’t imagine life without her. I’m sure yours is just as special.

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  2. My cat is also very similar. And we are going to watch the play again for Halloween – it’s only a 2 person stage adaptation, but wonderfully effective and scary. A chilling and cleverly done story.

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    1. I did not know there was a play of this story, but two friends have told me there is a film. I can imagined that the effects Susan Hill has described would be quite effective visually. More so, in fact, than in the novel.

      It’s so fun that several of us have similar cats!

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  3. Loved the play when I saw this a few years ago, like the whole audience I gasped at one point. Fil version with Daniel Radcliffe was ok. Really didn’t like the book though – story was good but it was Hills writing style I found irritating.

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    1. I agree with you on the writing. Compared to masters such as Wilke Collins, Daphne Du Maurier, or Shirley Jackson, Susan Hill is a beginner. Still, it was a fun, quick, October read.

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  4. I liked this book; it was genuinely eerie and reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s work. I haven’t got round to watching the film yet. I keep meaning to read more by Hill.

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    1. I think that while it was good, Shirley Jackson is the queen of suspenseful ghost stories. My husband was just telling me how he read The Haunting of Hill House in high school and how eerie it is. He remembers it perfectly! Still, I don’t think I would have the “guts” to watch the film. One of my friends told me how her family jumped every time the shadow of the woman would appear.

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  5. Every 5 years I manage to read a ghost story, since they are not my type, and every time they seriously scare me… The movie was ok, I quite enjoyed seeing what ‘Harry Potter’ has grown up into 🙂

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    1. They seriously scare me, too, Ally. I have most of Stephen King’s work half read, half unfinished. Bless you for watching the film! And, somehow I’ll always see Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter (just as Julie Andrews will always be a nanny in my mind).

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  6. I’m glad to see another positive review of this wonderful story. And I wouldn’t say no to having Samantha for company. That’s a great photo.
    The movie was good but the ending, as far as I can remember, was different. Loved the book, liked the movie. 🙂

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    1. Samantha is rather a fickle kitty. She often spends her time on my lap in the evenings, but just as often she can be found on my son’s lap playing X-Box. It doesn’t matter, we love her wherever she is. 🙂

      You are another of those brave souls who is courageous enough to watch the film. Not me!

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  7. First of all, I love this new look at your blog. It’s perfect!

    I watched this movie and found it super creepy. I have heard that the movie and the book are very different so I want to read the book at some point too. Maybe when there is more daytime in a day though…

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    1. Thanks for the compliment, Athira. This seemed like a fun theme for autumn; who knows if I’ll keep it longer than that. 😉

      I would definitely read the book in the day time. Reading it at night makes every creak in the house sound extra ominous!

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  8. Yes.The blog is looking great! I can’t read scary things because I have nightmares. Occasionally I do but…….I don’t want to push it to much. I can relate to how you feel with things that go bump in the night.

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    1. I think it is His spirit within us that keeps us especially on guard against what is dark and evil. I don’t want to push it too much, either. In fact, I felt a little convicted reading a ghost story…

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  9. Bellezza, sometimes shorter books or stories do take longer to read (for various reasons). This sounds like a very “October-y” book. Love the photo!

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    1. Isn’t it fun to read “October-y” books this month? Somehow, they are always more effective in the fall than in the summer; although maybe in June I wouldn’t be so easily creeped out. Glad you like the photo; Samantha and the cover seemed to compliment one another in color. To me, anyway.

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  10. I watched the film of this the other day because I was thinking of using it in one of my classes. Unfortunately, although I’d agree with whoever above said it wasn’t very good, I just couldn’t take it and had to switch it off! I’m sure the book works much better, but I think it’s probably just too scary for me.

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