Jade Paton's Reviews > The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
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Mar 16, 12

bookshelves: 2012, animals, children, chilly, horror-thriller, fantasy-among-us, mystery, read-in-czech, own-a-copy, reviewed
Read from February 23 to 29, 2012 — I own a copy

I'm not really sure how to deal with a review for this book. Ususally, I read the book and then go see the movie or the other way around if I can't read the book quickly enough (try to read the Game of Thrones two weeks before the series comes out and deal with exams at the same time). In this case I tried to read the book before the movie went out, but by the time we finally got the book, I had three days to do it and I had to be at work the whole time. I work at the book store, so reading at work is no problem, but there are customers and things you need to do first. All in all, I was about three-quarters into the book by the time I saw the movie.
Granted, if I wasn't assured by the massive advertising campaign, I probably wouldn't suspect that the movie had anything to do with the book. Which is understandable. If the movie wanted to be successful it definitely had to press further. Where an fleeting feeling of uneasiness does well in the book, the movie has to spell it out for you, preferably with an appropriate musical background.
I wasn't disappointed and I liked the book and the writing style. And there were moments where I held my breath waiting what's going to happen. Yet, the book only got three stars from me. There are several reasons for it.
It's incredibly brave to write a horror story (or a gothic novel) in retrospective. It probably can be done, but in this case I mostly saw it as a huge mistake. I would probably get over it if the "present" hero seemed to be influenced by the events. In this case, the hero only constantly reminded us that he was influenced and told us why, but that was about it. "Don't say it, show it" is one of the golden rules of fiction writing and there is a reason for it.
The setting was great. A land of seamists and marshes, a small town full of people that definitely know something, a trail that disappears at a high tide and an abandoned old house in the middle of dangerous marshes. Utterly gothic.
What's less gothic is the pleasant weather that gives all this a summer-house feeling. It's possible that the author wanted to lull us into a lazy state of peace so there would be a bigger contrast when the danger comes. Instead, it made half of the book "one day in the life of a lawyer" kind of story (which is, however, quite popular these days for some reason - the age of Joyce and Woolf is back). I'm not saying it's boring. It's actually a lot better than most of the books that are supposed to be about the day of a lawyer in the first place. But it didn't create any contrast. It created confusion at the most.
What I like about the book though is that it was written by a woman. It might not be of much importance if most men who write horror stories weren't convinced that the appeal of a horror story measures in the litres of spilled blood and the number of dead bodies. In The Woman in Black I cared about two characters (one of whom was a dog) and both of them lived it through. And, no, I'm not contradicting myself. I liked that they lived, but I didn't need to find out at the beginning of the book.
Three stars are still a lot and I decided to read other books by this author as well. She made a few decisions for the style and the plot that I might not agree with, but that doesn't change the fact that I actually really enjoyed reading this.
And finally, I can't pass this opportunity to compliment Daniel Radcliffe on his performance in the movie. He never was a wunderkind to me, but he made progress over the time and it shows in this movie. So, thumbs up for both the movie and the book.
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02/23/2012
30.0%
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