Jemidar's Reviews > The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
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's review
Oct 04, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: ghosts-horror, culled
Read from November 25 to 29, 2011

Rating Clarification: 2.5 stars.

Disappointing and predictable, this Gothic ghost story isn't a patch on the classics of the genre such as Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. The writing is uneven and the author fails to keep the suspense building often interspersing awkward/boring moments between the tense scenes, which unfortunately were all too few. Part of the problem with the tension was that it was all so predictable I didn't even feel the need to check the ending like I usually do. In other words the suspense wasn't killing me. Not that the actual story was at fault as such, it was more that the author seemed to give away too much too soon and didn't manage to drip feed bits of the story to the reader in such a way to make it a compelling page turner.

I was also left with various questions at the end, some silly some not. For instance, when was it set? The writer appeared to be trying for a classic Victorian tone, but there were mentions of motor cars and electric lights. My guess was Edwardian, but I can't be sure. Also, I was left wondering how on earth there was electricity at all out at the isolated Eel Marsh House. No mention was ever made of a generator, the narrator just flicked switches even though the house was unoccupied when he arrived. While these questions and some others (which involve spoilers so I won't mention them here) may not amount to major plot holes, they did niggle and distract which is never a good thing, especially in this type of book.

Despite my disappointment in the book, I still hold out hope for the movie. From what I've seen in the trailers, it looks like the film embraces the full horror of the classic Victorian ghost story which is something the book failed to do. The potential was there but it was just never realized by the author.
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Reading Progress

11/25/2011 page 33
21.0% "Uninspiring so far. Maybe it's a good thing it's so short..."
04/07/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-28 of 28) (28 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

My biggest complaint was knowing from the beginning the fate of the narrator and his wife. It took a bit of the sting out of the ending. And, I struggled with trying to figure out when the book was supposed to be set; perhaps post-WW1?

message 2: by Jemidar (last edited Nov 29, 2011 08:37PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jemidar No idea when it was set. We can only guess.

Knowing he was a widower and that he survived the experience didn't bother me. I actually think that sort of thing can be a good hook if well done. However, agreed, this one was not well done, but that aside it was more the narration/narrator that bothered me. One minute he was scared and fainting, and then within a couple of paragraphs he had reasoned it all out and had either accepted or 'just knew' what it was. Then we'd get all this filler as he prepared to go back to the house. For me it ruined the tension. I like a slow steady build and being drip fed the story. It keeps me turning the pages not knowing.

Honestly, the narrator in this was almost TSTL.

message 3: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Is this the film that Daniel Radcliffe is starring in? If so, I saw the trailer and thought it looked decidedly creepy! I don't really go in for scary movies, so I probably will not watch it, but I hope it is good!

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, it is. I haven't seen the trailer yet, but I'll look for it.

Jemidar There's a trailer here and several on You Tube.

Looks good, but doesn't appear to resemble the book much besides basic story line. Think I'm going to like the movie better :-).

Jeanette, have you ever read Turn of the Screw? If you want to know what a really good Gothic ghost story is like, I would highly recommend it.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I just watched this one:

It looks like they turned it into a horror movie. Very different from the book. Radcliffe looks good.

I'll look at The Turn of the Screw. Is it scary?

Jemidar Well, it is a ghost story. LOL. I think they are probably just showing the scariest bits in the trailer (as they do) but because of the supernatural elements it would be classified as horror anyway. I'm glad it looks like they ramped it up a bit in the movie because the book really was disappointing considering its supposed genre.

Yes, The Turn of the Screw is scary but aren't ghost stories supposed to be? It's very Victorian Gothic and the tension/suspense doesn't let up, and has a really nice twist at the end. It also has psychological elements which add to its intensity. I know Henry James isn't to everyone's taste but the TToftS is very short and very accessible.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I've added it to my queue, if only to be able to say that I tried something by James. :) (expanding my literary horizons and all that....)

message 9: by Kerrie (new) - added it

Kerrie Just watched the trailer... It's good to see Radcliffe in non-Harry Potter getup.

Jemidar Yes, I think he looks good in this.

Casilda I was reminded that I read this book about 10 years ago and recall I wasnt too impressed by it either. I recall I gave her a second chance and read the next couple of books in the series but then gave up. Your review sums it up well!

message 12: by Kathryn (last edited Dec 01, 2011 07:49AM) (new)

Kathryn Kerrie wrote: "Just watched the trailer... It's good to see Radcliffe in non-Harry Potter getup."

I agree! :-) Have you seen his performance from the Broadway show "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"? It was on the Tony Awards. Singing and dancing Dan, a real departure from Harry!

message 13: by Jemidar (last edited Dec 01, 2011 07:57AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jemidar Casilda wrote: "I was reminded that I read this book about 10 years ago and recall I wasn't too impressed by it either. I recall I gave her a second chance and read the next couple of books in the series but then ..."

Thanks :-). So many other people liked it, that I was beginning to think it was just me. I doubt I'll waste my time giving her a second chance.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I saw the clip from the Tony's. I think he did a pretty good job; he looked like he was having fun!

Casilda Nobody nowadays seems to be able to do gothic horror as well as say Henry James or Bram Stoker et al but I live in hopes. Sarah Waters is good but she's a bit hit and miss.

Jemidar I've got Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger on my TBR so fingers crossed, although the reviews are very mixed.

Casilda I wasnt expecting much but to my surprise I really enjoyed The Little Stranger. It kept me gripped all the way through. I'll be interested to know if you enjoy it.

Jemidar Good to hear. Will let you know what I think if I remember, as it may be a while before I get to it.

message 19: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Jeannette wrote: "I saw the clip from the Tony's. I think he did a pretty good job; he looked like he was having fun!"

I thought so, too :-)

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

He made it look easier than it actually was, I'm sure.

Sarah Mac I recall similar frustrations with the mysterious time period of this one...also with the extremely wimpy nature of the narrator. Its saving grace was, for me, the scene in the foggy trail outside Eel Marsh House. Now that WAS creepy -- it added a whole extra star to my rating, which was otherwise a 3. If only the entire book had been more like that.

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

The vivid descriptions of the accident in the marsh, the incident with the dog in the marsh, those scenes made the book for me, too.

message 23: by Drew (new) - rated it 4 stars

Drew Graham I actually preferred this to The Turn of the Screw. It wasn't a perfect ghost story, but it had some really nice elements. I found Henry James's thriller just a little less accessible.

Jemidar Isn't it wonderful that we all don't like the same things? I'm afraid James wins for me hands down :-).

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I may have to read James, just to see what I think of it. :)

Jemidar Very spooky :-D.

message 27: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason did you find the turn of screw complicated, in terms of style and prose?

Jemidar No. But then I love Henry James :-).

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