The Woman in Blackby Susan Hill
~ Goodreads ~
Rating: 1.0 Stars
**Side note on 3/20/2016: This review was first written in 2012 and this re-posting has undergone some slight tweaking as I judged some parts of my written review imperfect... not that the review is perfect now, but I didn't want to change the entire essence of the original review.
Okay, so maybe I don't quite understand how to appreciate writing styles in classic or historical novels? Which is why I was a little reluctant to enjoy this book, maybe?
However, I think I've read a decent amount of historical, gothic, or classic books to formulate an opinion. And if not, then we really just come right down to whether or not I enjoyed reading this book. Which I did not. And unfortunately, I probably just couldn't get into this one enough to fairly judge its premise, story line or even character develop (all of which felt like there really was none, save for the same old, same old).
This is a book described as a Victorian ghost story by some. And while it seems that MY concept of a ghost story and some OTHER people's idea of a ghost story might be a bit different, I had at least been expecting SOME element of ghostly wonder. At the very least, I wanted it to be creepy or scary or that it would instill some sort of fear or spine-tingling chill up my spine. Instead, it just turned out to be a long drawn out narration about how one particular duration of time in one man's life had completely changed his life and scared him into silence.
And to be totally honest, while there were some points in this book that I could follow really well and enjoyed, those moments disappeared pretty quickly as I easily lost interest after a few more sentences and started wandering around to find something else to do. The entire first half of the book was awkwardly loaded with detail about the narrators life and his take on his own personality as well as vague detail about how some incident he came across affected him immensely. And of course, there really was NO NEED for Mr. Kipps to keep referencing that incident in such secretive terms because, as the summary of the book would tell you, this is a ghost story and we are all aware that he had encountered something awful and haunting.
So a lot of the beginning of the book was build-up that just seemed like it was awfully unnecessary. In fact, if we just skipped straight ahead to the moment where he arrives in Crythin and starts going through the home of the deceased Mrs. Drablow, it would have cut off a whole lot of boring. However, even were THAT the case, it seemed like the heavily loaded descriptions about the narrator's state of mind and how he comes to have that state of mind (from childhood revelations to current knowledge and insight) still made up at least 90% of each chapter. Very little of the narration draws upon the historical happenings of Eel Marsh House, and very little of the narration deals with the horror of the actual haunting. And in turn, the same events seemed to happening nightly and we only get to see what the narrator is feeling and thinking, each and every time that the horrific hauntings take place.
I'll admit: I got frustrated and bored and even a little ready to just drop the book and move on. But I've already dropped too many books this year and I figured that I would be damned if I didn't finish this one (especially since I somehow managed to get through more than 50% of it). I remember very little of the story line, however, save for the same repetitive haunting of Eel Marsh House told in three or maybe four or maybe even five separate parts of the book. I read, but didn't pay much attention to all of Mr. Kipps' narration about his own feelings and emotions. And I was quite disappointed that the story was NOT scary and didn't even wager a cent of spine-tingling eeriness.
And of course, since a lot of the haunting seemed like typical, standard ghost story lore, none of it was surprising to me. And the rest of the book was quite predictable.
Maybe this just wasn't a book for me. Or maybe I had been expecting too much out of it, or expecting something quite different. There were moments where I DID enjoy it if only because I thought that the story line was starting to get a little exciting. But then when it kept on going in the same way it had been, I just couldn't find it in me to like it at all. It IS well, written, in terms of description and style; but it just wasn't very attractive, at least not enough for my taste.
So basically, while some may find this writing style great, I just couldn't find it in myself to enjoy the book. It says a lot when I can barely remember certain details about it to be memorable at all. And the fact that everyone was so closed-mouthed about the historical events surrounding Eel Marsh House and the woman in black and the deceased Mrs. Drablow... but then finally, one of the characters decides to suddenly talk about it quite freely without any goading or such... Really, what was THAT all about? Deux ex machina to shed some light on the entire haunting debacle?
This review was originally posted at Goodreads in February 2012.