I like a weekend off as much as the next person, but what I like even more is what I have for the rest of this week – later starts. I cannot express how pleased I am not to have to get up at 6.30am and not to have to rush through everything to get to bed on time. It’s an extra blessing after a latish night at the theatre last night – ‘The Woman in Black’ – followed by a broken night’s sleep (I wonder why that would have been). Today, sadly not for the first time, I ran over my own foot with a very heavy cage of wine, I need to sleep.
I suspect most people who read this will have either read, watched the TV version, or seen the play of ‘The Woman in Black’ but just in case I’m not the last to have done so I’m going to try hard not to give away any of the plot...
Susan Hill is a writer who has mostly passed me by until now – The first I read was ‘The Man in the Picture’ a couple of years ago; I was disappointed by it hoping for something altogether more creepy, I did however really enjoy ‘Howards End Is On The Landing’ so when I saw ‘The Woman in Black’ was on in town I thought I’d go and see it, and read the book. I liked the book and loved the play; both were suitably scary without being Stephen King terrifying.
One little niggle I had with the book was that I couldn’t place when it was set – lots of mentions of light switches even in the isolated Eel Marsh house which suggests mains electricity, there’s also talk of cars, yet no suggestion of the war. If it wasn’t for the light switches I would think it was set around the turn of the century but it could be almost forty years later. It shouldn’t matter, but not being able to narrow the action to a specific period distracts me from the plot – which is perhaps why I didn’t find this book as spooky as I know others have. I liked the play so much more because none of those questions arose. Costume set the tone and everything else fell into place.
Grumbles aside it’s a terrific ghost story and this is exactly the time of year for reading such a thing accessorised with hot chocolate and hot water bottles I found it just the right side of unsettling, nice and short too because sometimes it’s a bonus to be able to swallow a book whole – especially I find when it’s of a slightly sinister nature. I would also say that the last few paragraphs are some of the most powerfully sad I’ve ever read – they certainly express the raw abruptness of the aftermath of any accident or sudden tragedy with brilliant economy and impact.