Josh's Reviews > The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
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's review
Feb 10, 2012

liked it

In a word: adequate. It's very hard to frighten a reader with words. Hill doesn't. But interesting a reader with words is kind of her job and she didn't earn any gold stars for that more mundane task either. The story begins to go cool, evocative places, but just as quickly drops the thread. There is a scene where the protagonist finds the heretofore perpetually locked door to a mysterious room suddenly open. He goes in and finds a warm, lived-in nursery, which stands in contrast to the gray quality of the rest of the house. In the room, a ghostly sound is revealed to be a rocking chair moving on its own but rather than creating a spooky scene here, Hill writes how the rocker triggers Arthur's long-forgotten feelings of safety with his nanny as a boy. This connection between a recognizable feeling--longing, nostalgia--and the supernatural could have put Arthur in peril, emotional or otherwise. It was an opportunity to use genre tropes to make the reader care about a character, but Hill just dumps it. Pet Sematary is--while not a well-written book--so effectively frightening because the reader is forced to deal with death as a reality, quite intimately; when the supernatural dimensions of death enter the narrative, we're all the more moved because we recognize how we already feel about the subject, fearful and deeply sad. Not every horror story need be Pet Sematary, but it should do more than this did. I'm honestly bewildered as to why people are, evidently, still thinking about this book twenty-eight years after its publication.
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