Arthur Kipps is an Edwardian lawyer sent out to settle the estate of a dead woman who lived in a very remote house in the middle of a marsh. He discovers the house and village nearby live in mortal terror of a ‘Woman in Black’ whose appearance heralds the imminent death of a child.
A short book, more of a novella actually – it only took me two or three days to read. Because of that, the pacing was quick, and the book doesn’t hang around getting down to the main story, and the atmosphere around the haunted house and the marshes was handled nicely. There was more expectation of terror than any actual terror, and The Woman in Black didn’t really do much; she appeared and then vanished, then did it again a few times. Pretty much the worlds most passive ghost.
We’re told late in the book that whenever she appears, a child dies, which is immediately contradicted since she appears four or five times and only one child dies.
About three quarters of the way through, there’s a painfully constructed sentence with at least six commas in, a paragraph in length, which, also, does not flow, that is to say, is constructed clumsily, kind of like, almost, perhaps, this paragraph. Ugh.
It bounced me right out of the book in what should have been a tense scene, and I couldn’t settle back into the book after that. I kept looking for more clumsy paragraphs…and finding them.
The ending was rushed into the last five pages, and the deaths of the Stella (Arthur’s wife) and Arthur Junior had no impact at all – not surprising, since they were barely in the book and I didn’t get a chance to ‘know’ them.
In the end, a nice try at an Edwardian / Victorian Gothic ghost story, but clumsy sentence construction and rushed pacing at the end spoiled it for me.
I was expecting The Woman in Black to come rushing for me, but she only stood there and watched.
2/5 – Tony Talbot