The Woman in Black by Susan Hill fulfilled the Ghost Story category of the 2019 PopSugar Reading Challenge. I think I missed something.
I read the book earlier in the spring and realized I forgot to write up my review. I couldn’t remember much about the tale, only the PopSugar category. Which is odd because I love a good horror story. Hell, I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was eleven. But this book slipped from my mind.
So, as a good reviewer, I researched the tale to refresh my memory. I found entries about the movie with Daniel Radcliffe and to my utter shock, a play that has the longest running history next to The Mousetrap. (Have I mentioned I love Agatha Christie and am 80% finished reading her books.) Shocked is not the word. I must have missed something in the reading. I need to do more research.
Mind jogged. Here’s a summary. The book is written in a Gothic style ala Poe and Hawthorn. I used to love classic American writers in my college days. And Gothic was always fun. The Woman in Black retells the tale of a father challenged to share a ghost story. He relates a tale of his younger days when he came across a specter of a woman in black in an obscure little town. The woman’s life was tragic and sad—an unwed mother in the 19th century forced to give up her son, who died tragically in a cart accident. The woman, heartbroken and repressed by society, could not even mourn properly for her lost child. She wastes away for years then after death, returns to the site of the accident, haunting the space. Her appearance apparently foretells of an impending death of a child. Spoiler! The narrator’s son. Dum dum dum. Okay then…
I can’t seem to reconcile my blah feeling about the book with the praise I’ve seen on Amazon and Goodreads. Perhaps I’m off here. I liked the twist, but the story did not instill darkness, fear, or terror in me. I might be a bit immune having read so much horror in my younger days, but I recognize a great book when I read one. I focused on the haunting, rather than the woman’s back story. Perhaps that is where the real horror lay. A woman unable to raise her own child because society condemns her for not being married. (I’m so glad we don’t live in times like this anymore.) Then she loses her child in a freak accident and cannot mourn him. Losing a child is a horror beyond anything to me. My daughters are priceless treasures in my life. I can see how she railed and hurt from the event, hurt enough to come back from the dead.
I kinda hope that she was trying to help others by appearing and warning them of a child’s death. But nope. Spoiler! Her appearance, in the end, causes a death. Yeah, I can’t empathize with that. And the narrator. Though I feel sad for him, I couldn’t relate to him. I didn’t feel the connection. So fail on empathy, fail on horror, fail on remembering this book. Maybe I’ll go see the movie.
I give The Woman in Black three ghostly stars.