Study Guide

The Woman in Black

By Susan Hill

The Woman in Black Introduction

Turn on all the lights and crank up some cheerful music, because you're going to need it with this one. (Or, hey, light a candle and put on the haunted house soundtrack, if being scared is more your thing.) Because our hero, young solicitor—that's "lawyer" for the Americans in the audience—Arthur Kipps, ends up being involved in a little more than he bargained for.

Although Susan Hill's Woman in Black was published in 1983, you won't find shoulder pads or frizzy hair. Instead, it's full of steam trains and newfangled contraptions called "horseless carriages." And we start off with Arthur Kipps, the solicitor in question, enjoying the holidays with his family. His second family.

Can you guess where this is going yet?

When the kids start to tell ghost stories, Arthur gets upset and flustered and abruptly leaves the house without explaining why. (How British of him!) It turns out that he has his own ghost story, and we hear it in flashback:

As a young solicitor fairly new into his career, he's sent to a small town to settle the affairs of an old woman who's recently died. When Kipps arrives he finds that the locals are decidedly unfriendly. And then the creepy things start happening—like repeated sighting of a frighteningly ill woman dressed all in black. Thus begins his descent into true heart-pounding horror as he tries to figure out the story behind the mysterious woman in black.

Does this sound like the perfect set up for a movie? You're not the only one to think so. It was adapted for TV in 1989, and then became a radio show in both 1993 and 2004. In 2012, it was adapted again, starring Mr. Harry Potter himself. And if there's one thing we've learned from horror movies, it's that the dead are never really gone.

What is The Woman in Black About and Why Should I Care?

Everyone loves a good ghost story, right? And book has all the right elements: a big, creepy house; spooky kids; a mysterious woman; and a slow and almost excruciating build-up to the horrifying end.

And the cool thing about The Woman in Black is that it's a tribute to where the genre all started: the gothic literature of the late eighteenth century. We're not talking splatter films or torture porn. We're talking about the good stuff: the kind of story that doesn't need to shed a single drop of blood to keep you gripping the edge of your seat and leaving the lights on all night.

Not that we did that after reading this, or anything.

The Woman in Black Resources

Websites

More Chills and Thrills
If you can't get enough of that Susan Hill spookiness, check out her website for more reading recommendations.

Harry, Can You Hear Me?
For more visually inclined horror fans, check out the movie site for The Woman in Black.

Movie or TV Productions

Nah, He's Not Famous
The 2012 production of The Woman in Black stars some faces you may know.

Made in the '80s
If you're looking for a lengthier version (by a whole five minutes), or if you're just nostalgic for some '80s cinematography, you can check out the TV movie version.

Articles and Interviews

Otherwise Unemployable
Susan Hill seems awfully charming and sweet for someone who writes such dark books.

Required Reading
The Woman in Black is standard reading for British students. Lucky kids!

Video

Hollywood Calling
On the set of The Woman in Black, Susan Hill talks about her book and its movie adaptation.

Creepy Tunes
Ready to get scared silly? Check out the trailer for The Woman in Black and don't say we didn't warn you.

Audio

Listen Up
If you need a good audiobook for your Christmas travels, pick up this one.

Images

Cheer Up, Chap!
Daniel Radcliffe makes a very serious looking Arthur Kipps. Well, that sounds about right.

Don't Turn Around
What's that peeking from behind Arthur Kipps?