Books Read in 2015 52. The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

Genre: Supernatural Thriller, Historical Fiction

Narrative Style: First person, flashback framed by a story telling session on Christmas Eve51cxm9AmChL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Rating: 3/5

Published: 2001

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: It’s Christmas Eve and the Kipps family have settled down for the traditional telling of ghost stories. Arthur Kipps is reminded of his own supernatural experience, something that is has taken him years to recover from. He then tells the tale of Eel Marsh House and the Woman in Black that haunts it. 

I’d been meaning to read this for a long time – from before the release of the film. I love a good ghost story and this had a lot of promise. And indeed, the beginning of the tale sets the scene quite successfully. Kipps is reluctant to tell his story and the descriptions of Eel Marsh House also seem to suggest that there is a terrible tale to be told.

And at first, it is suitably creepy. The locals warn him against staying at the house but everybody clams up when the probed too closely. However, Kipps is young and determined to prove his bravery so he does not take heed. It isn’t long before things start to go bump in the night and Kipps nerves (like those of the reader) are in shreds.

However, this early tension is wasted and the story fizzles out. Although Kipps finds evidence of who the Woman is Black is and why she is haunting the area and even though she exacts a final revenge, I was left oddly untouched. It seemed hurried and so the scares were not as effective as they could have been.

It may be another case of better read before the movie is viewed. Or maybe it is just that film as a medium is so much better able to scare. Whatever the reason, I felt let down by this in a way I didn’t by the film.


Books Read in 2015 – 17. Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

eclecticreader15 Genre: Horror, Classics, Vampires Narrative Style: First person. Introduced as if part of a doctor’s case-notes Rating 3/5carmilla-240 Published: 1871 Format: Kindle Reading challenges: Eclectic reader challenge 2015 – genre: A story written before I was born. Synopsis: Laura and her father live in a solitary castle in Austria. One night, they witness a terrible coach crash and are persuaded to look after the victims daughter as she is considered too ill to carry on. Strange night time occurrences and appearances begin to bother Laura although she doesn’t immediately associate them with their new guest.  This early vampire story – which pre-dates Dracula by some 26 years – seems quite old-fashioned now. It is a story that has seeped into popular culture. Unfortunately when you then read the original version, it is hard not to feel it is a little predictable. This only shows the extent of the influence of Le Fanu’s story. I particularly enjoyed the opening with its creepy descriptions of the surrounding area and the hints of empty villages and deserted castles. The scene was very effectively set for what was to come. When a friend of the family’s daughter dies in mysterious circumstances just as she was about to visit Laura and the equally mysterious Carmilla appears just days later, the reader knows that something is not quite right. Equally, I found the build up of tension between Laura and Carmilla convincing and interesting. Laura is both attracted and repulsed by her guest and cannot put her finger on why. Carmilla is prone to strange romantic longings with Laura as their focus. These episodes are unsettling to Laura and probably would have been to readers at the time. However, momentum does not quite hold up and the revealing of Carmilla’s vampire status is a bit of an anticlimax. The General – the friend whose daughter died – recounts his own experience with Carmilla in a nearby ruined village. When Carmilla appears, he attempts to attack her but she is too strong for him, thus proving that she is indeed a vampire. At just the right moment, a vampire expert and hunter appears who just happened to know where the hidden tomb of Carmilla is. This ending seems a little rushed and underdeveloped. It’s a shame because I had enjoyed it up until that point.