The Woman in Black – the mechanics of fear

The woman in black novel hardback
In the style of Susan Hill…

Illuminated Gothic letter It was with some apprehension that I purchased the book, pretty as it was, with an embossed jacket and the air of a handsome Victorian novel. My life at Vibes House meant some degree of detachment which veiled the world beyond my Internet Web Log, or ‘Blog’ as the youths of the day might call it. But still I heard the name, and the posters would jump out at me on my travels, only to recede again from my sight and thus my conscious mind. I find such intrusions largely annoying, since I prefer to make my own decisions about which spectrum of our popular culture to indulge. The fact that the book had become the most successful film in the British Cinema left me cold and being obtuse of nature I relented and soon found myself in the uppermost turret of Vibes House, reading the tome by moonlight, rather than gracing my local fleapit and watching the film.

To begin, I found the prose stilted and lumpen, striving as it did to ape the style of vintage novels by the likes of Jane Austen, or perhaps Charles Dickens. The lack of action at first held me back but the seeds of mystery are sown early on, and I found myself compelled to persevere. My concern lay with the protagonist whose failure to heed casual warning from his fellows lands him in a mire of pure horror. The hauntings themselves, for it is a ghost story, remain few and are detailed with such unadorned words that I accepted them as reality and was thus swept into a dark world of marshes and burial grounds from which I was grateful to escape.

It is a short tale which can be satisfactorily digested in one sitting, but I found a break necessary as the penultimate chapter reached its unrelenting climax. Twice my hair actually stood on end, a testament to the power of the author, who must have studied the mechanics of fear and fine-tuned her vehicle accordingly. So deeply did I believe in this fiction that I took pause to watch shadows in my drawing room, and listen to distant screams in the night, hoping they would cease and not magnify the torment in those pages.

Never have I been manipulated with such precision by a tale, accustomed as I am to the incontinent ramblings of Stephen King (procure an editor, tedious man!) who never wrote a novel better than his first, Carrie, which similarly is written with restraint and finesse and yet is greater than the sum of its labours. I must address Susan Hill the author of The Woman in Black, as a master of her art, and I should venture next to purchase the DVD with alacrity. I hate popcorn.

To be read accompanied by a glass of good brandy…

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Categories: Random, Vibe Monitor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “The Woman in Black – the mechanics of fear

  1. Awesome…. I wasn’t really interested in the book before but now I am.

    woo woo woo!

  2. It was a great read, very spooky! I might watch the movie now. Say hi to June Buggie, gorgeous cat!

  3. I orginally encountered this tale in the stage-play format, which was amazing!
    The sinister rocking chair and the atmosphere of dread were great.
    The two film versions were guite good too!

  4. Yes, now I want to see the play, which is still running in the West End, I think. Two film versions? I think I’m going to be a bit completist. The rocking chair is so well done in the book, the hair stood up on my arms!

  5. Lisa

    I haven’t read The Woman In Black yet, but have you tried any of her other books? The Small Hand is another ghost story that you would probably enjoy if you dig her style.
    Poor old Stephen King, I do love him and his rambling tangents! But on the topic of ghost stories, have you read any of his son, Joe Hill’s work? Heart Shaped Box is a fantastically creepy tale, without such a tendancy to waffle 😉

  6. Looking forward to reading it this few days, seeing as I am on a bookfest!

  7. Very timely review, and clever of you to write it in the style of the author.

    • Thanks, Mrs Daffodil. I think this was the fastest I ever read a book, it was that good, and Susan Hill’s style is infectious. The film was impressive but it’s not a patch on the book.

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