The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is the quintessential ghost story, pint-sized in a tight and perfectly formed two hundred pages.

It starts, as all things should, with a journey, from a grey London November to the little market town of Crythin Gifford, at the end of a railway branch line and on the edge of a very spooky marsh.

The unfolding story is made vividly realistic by being told by a first person narrator, in the form of Arthur Kipp, who makes the journey north to attend the funeral of, and then go through the papers of, a Mrs Drablow, a long-standing client of the firm of solicitors at which he is articled. From the man he meets on the train, to the pub landlord where he is staying, no-one wants to talk about Mrs Drablow, and no-one is keen to make the journey across the tidal causeway to Eel March House.

Arthur brushes such qualms aside, and sets off with only enlightenment rationality to protect himself, but is soon reduced to sheer terror by the goings-on in the desolate marsh.

He is eventually lent a faithful companion in a little dog called Spider, who only adds to the tension when his fur stands on end at the supernatural nocturnal stirrings of the house. It becomes touch-and-go for Arthur and Spider, and Arthur is nearly driven quite mad by his experiences. The ghost of the Woman in Black is to haunt his life for some years to come.

This is a perfect ghost story, one I would not recommend reading alone, at night, in a strange bed, or in the dark.