Monday, 28 May 2012

The Woman in Black - Susan Hill (Updated)

As it is now likely evident, I DNF'd The Woman in White. I was just so distraught that, even reading it a second time, even after Anne DIES, there's still no ghost. As luck would have it, browsing an airport bookstore with The Woman in White in my carry-on, I glimpsed The Woman in Black. I bought it immediately, wooed by its thinness and large font as much as by the certainty of ghosts.

*Contains ghosts

Because PEOPLE. Definitely ghosts. So much so that, when my husband left town for a workshop while I was in the midst of reading, I had to stop until he got back. History has taught us it's best to hunt ghosts in groups.

This is just my type of horror, with more build-up than confrontation. That means by the time our hero, Arthur Kipps (whose name is second in Britishness only to Benedict Cumberbatch), walks up the stairs and HOLY CATS THE DOOR IS OPEN, I'm wound so tight that all I can do is be relieved when he looks inside. I like the genre of horror that involves the audience yelling at the page/screen. "Don't go up to her! The woman in black is a GHOST! A GHOST!" Knowing something terrible is going to happen, and then it happening in an altogether predictable way is far more manageable than the horror that crawls into bed with you, that bites at your ankles when you're walking in the dark. The Woman in Black is a story that had me freaked while reading, and left me mostly alone while not.

It had the usual atmosphere. It had the dog to make sure we sense things are amiss before any badness actually goes down. It had the mega-spooky out-of-the-way house and the close-lipped townsfolk. It was an entirely enjoyable, entirely old story. And the writing was good — it neither got in the way with dreck nor surprised me with beauty. Though at moments near the beginning I felt Kipps was a lot like Hartright of The Woman in White. Really, if you want a book that will keep you anxious and turning the pages without engaging your brain, I would recommend it. Certainly good summer reading, what with the light lasting later into the evening, keeping ghosties at bay.

Closing tangent: As you know, informed interfolk, the book has now been made into a movie. (I'm guessing it would scare me WAY more than the book. There were scenes in the book that, though I was fine reading them, would send me into a panic if I saw them acted out. "The woman in black seemed to haunt me, even here, to sit on the end of my bed, to push her face suddenly down close to mine as I lay asleep, so I awoke crying out in terror." No THANK you.) So, inevitably, the cover of my airport paperback is the poster from the movie. That bums me out so hard, I can't even. No better way to broadcast that you're not reading some cloth-bound classic than having a picture of a squeamish Harry Potter on the cover.

Yer a'haunted, Harry.

But, I will hand it to the cover: it is supah creepy. I had to make sure the book was facing down when I left it on the table. Not quite freezer-worthy, but close.

UPDATED: Aaaaand, I watched the movie. And by watched I mean peeked at from from behind my knees. I was impressed by how un-Harry Potter-like they were able to make Radcliffe look. Definitely helped. Anywho, suspicions were correct: WAY scarier than the book. Still kept it to the creepy scary more than the boogidy-boo jump out at you scary, which was good. Both book and movie were fun and worth the time to read/watch, but the movie wins in giving me a stomach ache that's lasted into the next day.

Also, WTF CREEPY BRITISH TOYS??!! Why would you buy those?! Terrible purchasing choices, movie families.


  1. I absolutely love your review - especially when I read "Yer a'haunted, Harry" in Hagrid's voice. In my head, of course. I don't know what I'd do with myself if I, a 25 year old female, had Hagrid's voice. Do you scare easily?

    1. If you were a 25 year old lass with Hagrid's voice, I'd suggest taking up jazz singing.

      And oh yes, I am a certified wimp. I scare really easily. After I watched the 1979 version of "The Amityville Horror" I didn't sleep for WEEKS. WEEKS. And yet I keep going back to the genre. It makes no sense. Do you scare easily?

    2. I think a jazz-singing hagrid-woman would be enough to scare me off, that's how easily I scare! The horror-genre is crazy-addicting... I blame Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Poe for getting me hooked in junior high.

    3. Super addicting, though I've never really read horror. Mostly watched it. I haven't read any Dean Koontz, and hardly any Stephen King. I did watch "Thinner" last Hallowe'en though. Any books by those folks you'd recommend starting with?

  2. I read the book right before I saw the movie, so I was like "Psh, I know all about what's going to happen. YOU CAN'T SCARE ME MOVIE." And the movie scared the SHIT out of me. You know that scene where the door's locked, he grabs the axe, goes back up, the door's open? Yeah, ok, so there's that, but then he goes in, sees the rocking chair rocking, AND THEN THE CAMERA FLIPS TO A CLOSE UP OF THE CHAIR AND THE WOMAN'S IN IT AND I SCREAMED.

    I refused to watch it for like the last third. I just looked out of the corner of my eye. Omg. Damn that movie.

    1. AAAAAAAAAAH! Ah man. From the previews it looks like they added a LOT of extra scary stuff. The book is all build up, and it seems like the movie is all horror all the time.

      I think I'd have to use the classic eyes-covered-with-fingers and ears-plugged-with-thumbs approach to watching this one. Because we all know I'm still going to watch it.

    2. I watched the movie last night and, when that scene came up, I stared at the wall for the entire thing. Didn't even chance it. Too scary.


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