Author: Susan Hill
First Published: 1983
Page Count: 164
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 3/5 Stars
While not the scariest book on the block, it is still one of the best representations of a classic haunted house ghost story.
*Slow Pace *Few Scares
“For I see that then I was still all in a state of innocence, but that innocence, once lost, is lost forever.” Arthur Kipps, a solicitor, has been sent to the small town of Crythin Gifford to settle affairs after the death of the owner of Eel Marsh House. The aged, foreboding manor is isolated outside of town on an isle that can only be reached when the tide is out on the marshes of the Nine Lives Causeway. What should have been an easy job turns into a nightmare as the house’s past tragedies reveal themselves and a terrifying woman in black haunts Arthur with an evil desperation for some purpose he must discover.
In one of those unfortunate moments of weakness, I had been unable to resist watching the film before I read the book. Thankfully, the book outshines the film, per usual. What sets this book apart from other ghost stories is the setting. A drafty old house miles from the nearest house or town is scary enough, but the fact that anyone who inhabits this particular house is stuck there for hours at a time thanks to the unpredictability of the fog and the changing of the tide makes this manor unique. I was also very impressed by the ending of this book. I appreciate a story that can end with a bang and leave it at that. There is no need to drag out the story when you’ve closed it with the expertise Hill possesses.
The book is a great example of what an old school horror story should be, but I was underwhelmed with the few appearances made by the woman in black and the minimal supernatural occurrences. It is a short book which could account for part of the reason I felt this way but I also thought a lot of the story was spent listening to Arthur analyze what he has experienced. This certainly slows the pace of the story as well. I feel the author could’ve squeezed a bit more terror out of the setting and vengeful ghost she had created.
I had expected a bit more scares out of Hill in this book, but creepy Eel Marsh House and the way the story ends were enough to make me want to recommend the book. It’s a good story for people who want to indulge in a horror book but don’t want anything too frightening that might keep them up late into the night. This might also be a great read for horror buffs, since it’s always good to have a well-rounded knowledge of your favorite genre. However, if you are looking for something truly scary I would look elsewhere.
*TV Adaptation: (Starring Adrian Rawlins 1989) * Film Adaptation: (Starring Daniel Radcliffe 2012)