I amn ocacasional horror reader and with the news of the release of the movie The Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe and based on the said book...moreI amn ocacasional horror reader and with the news of the release of the movie The Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe and based on the said book by Susan Hill I knew I had to read it and I simply loved it.
Here is the summary of the book:
What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recesses of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller - one that chills the body with foreboding of dark deeds to come, but warms the soul with perceptions and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story by Jane Austen. Austen we cannot, alas, give you, but Susan Hill's remarkable Woman In Black comes as close as the late twentieth century is likely to provide. Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero one Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north to attend the funeral and settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the nursery of the deserted Eel Marsh House, the eerie sound of pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most dreadfully, and for Kipps most tragically, the woman in black. The Woman In Black is both a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror and a delicious spine-tingler - proof positive that that neglected genre, the ghost story, isn't dead after all.
With all the hosh-posh crude horror being published these days a pure classic horror forms a respite. What better way to spend the day than to read Ms. Hill's ghostly composition. Set in Victorian England, this atmospheric, supernatural tale of evil, terror and revenge sent chills down my spine on more than one occasion. It starts peacefully and builds up to a frightening crescendo that will "haunt" you long after you put the book down.
Ms. Hill begins her well-written narrative happily enough in the home of Arthur Kipps, who is surrounded by his loving wife and family for the Christmas holidays at their country home, Monk's Piece. Kipps is a full partner at a prestigious London law firm. Esme is his second wife. He lost his first love as a very young man. It is Christmas Eve and the grandchildren are all in bed. Their young parents, the Kipps' grown children, gather around the fire for a cozy ghost story session. At one point Kipps, obviously agitated, gets up, leaves the room and goes outside. He has hidden something significant about his past from his wife and family for years now - a tragically real ghost story of "haunting and evil, fear, confusion and horror" - of which he was a part. These events will certainly effect him all the days of his life. Kipps realizes that for his own peace of mind it is time to write his experience down and exorcise the demons, at last. He had hoped this inextricable part of his life would never have to be consciously recollected...but it is time. He decides that, at least during his lifetime, the tale will remain for his eyes only, and so he begins to write. He is our narrator.
At the very beginning of his career, many years before, Arthur Kipps, an energetic, idealistic junior solicitor was sent by his employer to attend the funeral of an elderly widow woman, Mrs. Drablow, one of the firms former clients. As the deceased owned property, including her home on the salt marshes near the town of Crythin Gifford, and had no heirs, no children or extended family, Kipps was asked to go and sort through her papers, and generally tidy-up the old woman's affairs.
The Drablow mansion, called Eel Marsh House, is quite isolated, situated in the middle of an estuary, connected to the mainland only by the Nine Lives Causeway, a small pathway barely visible through the marshes and quicksand, and only navigable a few hours a day. The road is underwater the rest of the time due to the strong tides.
It was at the funeral that Arthur Kipps first saw the tall, emaciated woman dressed in black. Despite his many questions to the locals, they refused to discuss the woman or address his concerns surrounding the Drabnow house, although they were extremely amiable and ready to speak out on every other topic. Suffice it to say that at the funeral, Kipps was the only one to see the woman in black. No one else even glimpsed what was so apparent to him.
Obviously, as his work led him to spend time at Eel Marsh house, there were to be be many more surreal episodes, each more frightening and dangerous in nature. Although these encounters are really scary, there is a mystery here also. Who is this mysterious woman...and if she is a ghost, why can she find no peace?
But as Arthur journeys across the treacherous causeway at low tide to explore the dark and brooding Eel Marsh House, things begin to shake up a bit. Not only did the late Mrs. Drablow keep every scrap of paper that ever crossed her twisted path, but she also harbored several dark, sinister secrets. But as you well know, secrets have a way of coming un-done and as would be the case for dear Arthur, he gets smack in the middle of a real doosey.
There's a mysterious locked nursery door, buckets full of eerie moonlight and a terrifying, recurring sound of a pony and trap (wagon) clip-clopping into the darkness always ending with a child's desperate scream as he is heard drowning in the marsh--over and over again. But there is also an evilness; a sheer hatred of anything remotely human at Eel Marsh House and it follows Arthur. And it waits for Arthur. And it strikes him in a way that truly will take your breath away.
The author packs this novel with twists, turns and the unexpected at almost every turn of the page. The description of the brooding countryside, the house and surrounding marshes is at times beautiful, but always spooky. There were a few occasions when I wanted to shut my eyes - but unlike a scary movie, if one shuts one's eyes while reading, well it gets too dark to continue.
I Quote - what a small and frightening thing! I am not prone to bouts of depression, but I will say this - once I began to read about the lawyer's forays into the marsh, the house and even the town - the atmosphere was so thick with darkness that I began to feel depressed. I'd have to put the book down, do something else and then continue. How I held my breath each time he investigated a sound! And the carriage falling into the marsh over and over...the end haunted me for days. It was such a simple, neat, tidy unexpected and abrupt end that I had no choice but to sit there speechless.(less)
This was a long standing to-read book on my digital shelf....and I've finally read it. And at best The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a brilliant piece...moreThis was a long standing to-read book on my digital shelf....and I've finally read it. And at best The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a brilliant piece of literature.
This is how the summary for the book goes like:
He was Quasimodo—the bell ringer of Notre Dame. For most of his life he has been forced to live in lonely isolation in the bell tower of the famous catheral—hidden away like a beast, banished from sight, shunned and despised by all. For though he was gentle and kind, it was Quasimodo's crime to have been born hideously deformed. But one day his heart would prove to be a thing of rare beauty. She was the dazzling Esmerelda. A dark-eyed gypsy girl who, the victim of a coward's jealous rage, is unjustly convicted of a crime she did not commit. Her sentence is death by hanging. Only one man had the courage to save her: Quasimodo.
It is a very famous story, and I find that much more people have “heard of it” than have actually read it. Most will just tell you – “isn’t this some kind of beauty and beast story?”. Well, actually it isn’t. This novel certainly isn’t a fairy tale. Rather, it is a touching and sad story (touching in a way that Hugo is a master expressing) about unfulfilled love. There are at least 3 unfulfilled love stories here, each one very different. Besides that, the plot tells of troubled times in Paris (and, I suspect, in whole of Europe) – what is rightfully called “the dark ages” – where each act of free thought was prosecuted by the church with one inevitable penalty – death.
Now, Contrary to popular opinion the novel Le Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo is not primarily about the deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo. Quasimodo's role is actually surprisingly small in the story, which makes you wonder why the English translater's chose "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" as the translation for the title. Actually, as the original French title would indicate, it is the cathedral itself that is the focus of the book. This is why in the unabridged editions of this book you will find numerous chapters that seemingly have nothing to do with the plot of the story.
It is a book narrowly focused on the Cathedral of Notre Dame situated on the Ile de la Cite in the center of Paris and, more broadly, on the 15th century city of Paris. This was a Paris where public executions or any form of punishment involving public humiliation were the highest forms of entertainment and drew the kinds of crowds that we would see at a major sports event today. If this book is not read with this in mind, the reader might well be disappointed because he came to it with a different sort of book in mind.
Now to the human aspects of the novel, the plot so to speak: There are no honest-to-god perfect angels in this book. After all, Esmerelda was a part of a band of thieves who came to public gatherings for the express purpose of seeing what they could "gather" for themselves. Quasimodo was not a misshapen humanitarian. He had been known to carry out a dirty deed or two himself. As for the rest of the characters, there's not a role model in the bunch. To Hugo's credit, we really care about Quasimodo and Esmerelda, "warts and all." This is one indication of good writing. Nothing that is not be expected by Hugo.
The dark, brooding and punishing interactions between the complex characters are a mastery of storytelling. The relationships of the characters with themselves are also part of this complex plot. Frollo’s struggle with Catholicism vs. desire and Esmeralda’s unwillingness to accept a revolting creature for his good heart are only a two examples of what makes this story brilliant. The story is peppered with a few twists, some humor (as much as will allow in the brooding story arc) with sarcasm and mockery galore.
The book’s most frustrating point, and the one which discourages many seasoned readers, is thepages upon pages of descriptive images, whether the streets of Paris down to the cracks (it seems) in the sidewalks or the Notre Dame Cathedral, brick-by-brick almost. The pacing of the book moves unevenly, most of the novel takes place over a period of six month, however the final chapters shoot forward a year and a half or two years.
What makes this novel a masterpiece, besides the poetic descriptions, is Hugo's description of the cathedral of Notra-dame and the city of Paris, and his discussion of how the arrival of printing press signaled an end to the importance as architecture as the expressive art of intellectuals. The views of the author expressed in these pages and pages of delightful reading provide the reader not only with historical and architectural prespective on the buildings in Paris, but also gives us a word image of buildings, roofs, rooms, carvings, modernism, and more.
In his commentaries and comparisons between writing and printing as form of expression in contrast to architecture, Hugo unmasks a wide array of issues that arrival of every new media (TV, Cinema, Internet, Digital Photography) bring. How existing precepts and concepts are revised, how adaptations occur, how each age has its own expression through any of these means- and all Hugo says so passionately about architecture or literature allows us to feel the essence of why we make monuments of stones or words in the first place.
Victor Hugo had great skill in developing characters, and describing their lives over an extended period of time, capturing how situations and people led to certain choices, behavioral changes and thought process of each. His ability of doing this, in a very detached manner, where narrative is like a camera floating into a room, and staying long enough for a distant observer to watch and identify traits of every person present there, makes him a great novelist. The novel, like all classic reads, looks formidable in size, but can be read at a formidable pace, especially after the first half of the novel is over.
Besides an extremely well-written book, the main thing about this book is that it's heart wrenching and thought provoking. One of the best tragedies ever written, if you like to shed some tears while reading, then this is the right book for you.(less)
The first American author, male or female, to write a full-length novel of detection was a Victorian-era woman, Metta Fuller Victor. Another nineteent...moreThe first American author, male or female, to write a full-length novel of detection was a Victorian-era woman, Metta Fuller Victor. Another nineteenth-century woman author, Anna Katherine Green, invented the amateur spinster sleuth, whose progeny are legion, ranging from Agatha Christie's Miss Marple to a gaggle of contemporary cozy heroines on both sides of the Atlantic. Green achieved any number of detective fiction firsts, including the first use of an icicle as murder weapon.
. . . . . . . This is just the beginning of a complex investigation full of wrong turns and faulty conclusions. The clues are particularly delightful - a pincushion out of place, lost keys, lost rings, too many women's hats etc. Early on, Miss Butterworth feels that her worth has not been appreciated by the police. So she undertakes her own investigation - and has the time of her life doing it.
Despite a few erroneous notions, Miss Butterworth emerges as a truly amazing detective - and wins Gryce's admiration. She's charmer, a crusty old maid with a well-concealed soft heart - and quite a slippery interrogator. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple was inspired by the delightful Miss Butterworth.
So move over, Miss Marple! The original spinster sleuth is back, confronting ghostly coaches, nosing into family skullduggery, and tripping over occasional corpses. Three cheers for Amelia Butterworth and her creator Anna Katharine Green.