I first learned about ”The Woman in Black” many years ago, because when The Husband and I started dating, we talked about horror movies and we spent quite a lot of time watching most of them as well. He is very picky when it comes to horror and is not easily scared – but he spoke almost reverently of the BBC version of “The Woman in Black”, which he had stumbled upon on the telly a late night while he was all alone in a remote summer house. So, although I asked not to be told the story, it has always been somewhere in my mind as true horror.
The story is very simply about a young solicitor Arthur Kipps, who is asked to travel north to attend the funeral of a rich, but seclusive client, Alice Drablow, who lived alone in the desolate Eel Marsh House. He is forced to stay at Eel Marsh House for some time to get Drablow’s affairs and papers in order and discovers that the marshes contain much more than he had expected…
In the autumn of 2013, we went to London on holiday, and of course we had to get tickets for the performance of “The Woman in Black” – the second-longest running show in the city. And it was amazing. A small theatre, two actors and a quite unusual and brilliant way of having transferred book to play – it was wonderful and sad and spine-chilling at the same time.
So, when I recently participated in Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-Thon, I knew I wanted something a bit chilling to keep me awake in the late hours. I hadn’t been particularly frightened before, when I had seen “The Woman in Black”, but this time, by myself in the middle of the night in a quiet house with only a few candles lit – I became quite scared. Although it isn’t the sort of tale that will frighten you with shocks and gory details, it has an amazing gothic feel that slowly creeps (like the mist on the moors) into your stomach and makes the world seem like an unreliable place – a place where you cannot trust what you think you know and bad things can happen to innocent people.
I loved the story even more in its original book form – not just for its horror and ability to affect me so much, but as much for its truly lovely prose and heartbreaking story of a man plunged into something he cannot understand, deal with or even accept exists. If you enjoy beautifully written Gothic stories that will crawl under your skin, then hurry up and find a late night, a few candles and a copy of “The Woman in Black”.
P.S. I haven’t watched the new version of the film starring Daniel Radcliffe, so I have no idea how it might be in comparison to the book, but I’ve heard that the story has been changed somewhat with more focus on being a “traditional” scary movie. I can highly recommend watching the BBC version, which has much of the same ambiance as the book.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill; published by Vintage Classics in October 2007 (org. published in 1983)