The Woman in Black
by Susan Hill
Horror and Gothic Fiction
If there's one way to characterize this book, it's to say that it's a good old-fashioned ghost story, complete with the death of a reclusive old lady, a big creepy mansion, and a ghost that keeps appearing at the most spine-tingling moments. On top of that, it's told in old-school British gothic fashion, with a focus on the environment's ability to inspire dread and fear.
From a damp, eerie old house to the things that go bump in the night, The Woman in Black gives every fright fest film a run for its money, and without shedding a drop of blood.
In addition to scare factor, The Woman in Black takes the reader on a trip back to the past. Though the time period is a little hazy, the old-timey language, steam trains, and pony and trap rides let us know right away that we're not in the 21st century, or even in 1983 when the book was written. Instead, the story seems like it's set in the 19th or early 20th century, which helpfully adds to the spooky factor because things were totally more creepy and ghostly in the past, right? The whole story has the feel of a 19th-century, Turn of the Screw era tale. And that's exactly what it is.
Every good ghost story is at least a little mysterious, as the characters try to figure out what's happening—and why it's happening to them. The Woman in Black is no different. Arthur arrives in Crythin Gifford innocent of the village's dire events, and ignorant of the very fact that ghosts even exist. Over the course of the book, he starts to piece things together in true detective style, gleaning hints from the townspeople and the massive stack of papers he finds in Eel Marsh House. And the secrets he unravels are not happy ones.