Synopses & Reviews
Set in Victorian England, Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor in London, is summoned to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, and to sort through her papers before returning to London. It is here that Kipps first sees the woman in black and begins to gain an impression of the mystery surrounding her. From the funeral he travels to Eel Marsh House and sees the woman again, plus he also hears the terrifying sounds of adult and child passengers sinking into the quicksand on a pony and trap.
Despite Kippss experiences he resolves to spend the night at the house and fulfil hi professional duty.It is this night at Eel Marsh House that contains the greatest horror for Kipps. Rescued by Mr Daily, a friend he met on the train, Kipps discovers the reasons behind the hauntings at Eel Marsh House. The book ends with tragedy, with the woman in black exacting a final, terrible revenge.
About the Author
Writer, journalist and novelist Susan Elizabeth Hill was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire in 1942. For part of her education she attended a grammar school in Coventry before studying English at Kings College, University London. By then, she had written her first novel, The Enclosure
(1961), in the evenings and at weekends, and it was accepted by a publisher while she was in the 6th Form, and published just as she arrived at King's.
On gaining her degree in 1963, Susan became book review editor for the Coventry Evening Telegraph. After five years in this post she turned to writing full-time.
Gentlemen and Ladies was published in 1968 and this was followed in quick succession by A Change For the Better, Im the King of the Castle, The Albatross, Strange Meeting, The Bird of Night, A Bit of Singing and Dancing and In the Springtime of the Year all written and published between 1968 and 1974.
Susan married in 1975 and moved to Stratford upon Avon. Her daughter, Jessica, was born in 1977, followed by a premature daughter Imogen in 1984 who died 5 weeks later. After a period of grieving her creative output continued, particularly in non-fiction and plays for radio. She began writing novels again in the early 1980's, with the successful The Woman in Black (1983), a ghost story, which has achieved great success on the stage, then went on to publish Air and Angels (1991), The Mist in the Mirror (1992), Mrs de Winter (1993) and The Service of Cloud (1997).
Susan now lives in a farmhouse set in 50 acres of the North Cotswold countryside.
Reading Group Guide
1. The novel opens with a detailed description of happy family life and builds to a ghastly climax. How does the author create the continual suspense to bring things to their terrifying conclusion?
2. The novel's narrator, Arthur Kipps, seems a straightforward character and surprisingly level-headed through the extraordinary drama of the novel. Do you as a reader trust the narrator more because of this? How does this calmness contribute to the effect of the more chilling and supernatural events later in the book?
3. The description of the woman in black is a gradual unveiling throughout the novel. How effective is this style of description? How do details, such as the cloak or hints of disease, contribute to our growing impression of her?
4. The author has chosen a woman as the central ghost figure - how is the concept of gender handled in the novel?
5. The story is set very firmly in Victorian times, with clear descriptions of daily life at that time. How does the historical setting add to the horror? Would a "modern" version of The Woman in Black be as frightening?
6. The Woman in Black is a modern ghost story not only in the strength of its writing, but also in its use of the conventions in this genre of writing. How does the author use these conventions to effect, and how does the novel compare to other ghost stories, not only in books but in film as well?