t 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…