Monday, October 17, 2016

Bitter In Black

Had a bout of insomnia the other that means I got to finish another book so YAY!  This of course means time for a haunted rambling to continue our October of awesome.  The book is The Woman in Black by Susan Hill which is the inspiration for the movie by the same name.  Was I to scared to sleep?  Let's find always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Arthur Kipp starts us off by telling us where he is at now.  He is happily married to his second wife after being widowed at a young age and now enjoys his later life with his wife, step-children and grandchildren.  The family starts telling ghost stories which triggers a pretty intense memory in our narrator Mr. Kipp.  He takes us back to his younger days where he was working on making partner at his law firm.  He ultimate goal was to provide a comfortable home for his fiancee Stella and their future family.  To this end he is sent by his boss to the remote town of Crythin Gifford and further out to an old manor Eel Marsh House.  A crumbling pile that is regularly cut off by the high tide.  Mr. Kipp's job is to attend the funeral and then the business affairs of the late Alice Drablow, the last remaining Drablow to live at Eel Marsh House.  Mr. Kipp finds himself quit comfortable in the little town and sets off with the local solicitor Mr. Jerome.  During the funeral Mr. Kipp see's a gaunt and wasted figure in all black.  He enquirers about her and only receives fear and silence in answer.  Mr. Kipp heads out to Eel Marsh House and again encounters the Woman in Black and determines that she is not only unhuman, but potentially malevolent as well.  As Mr. Kipp continues to go through the house he is stuck in a fog and in that mist he hears the sound of a pony and trap go off the road and the screams of a child as they are sucked down and drowned in the treacherous marsh.  Mr. Kipp is shaken up until he is picked up by his man and realizes that what he heard was not real.  He decides to get provisions and stay at the house until his business is complete.  To this end a new friend insists that he borrows his little terrier Spider to accompany him.  Mr. Kipp is woken in the night by a sound coming from a locked door.  He breaks it open and discovers the room of a young boy and a rocking chair in motion.  After going through various documents in between being scared and startled by various noises he finally get's the tragic story of Eel Marsh House.  Turns out that Alice Drablow had a sister Jennet who gave birth to a child out of wedlock.  Because of the circumstances and time period, Jennet was forced to give the child to her sister to raise.  Jennet could finally no longer stand to be away from her son and came to Eel Marsh House.  One day, while Jennet was standing at the window she watched in horror as her son, his nursemaid and the driver of the trap and pony lost their way in the mists and were instantly sucked down and drowned in the marsh.  These are the screams Mr. Kipp kept hearing in the marsh.  Jennet died 12 years after her son, bitter, angry and blaming everybody for her sons death, haunting the town many years after her demise.  After some more terror, Mr. Kipp is brought to his friends house to recover.  It is here that Mr. Kipp learns the horrifying aftermath to the story.  Apparently every time the Woman in Black is sighted, a child dies a horrible death.  Mr. Kipp goes back to London to try and forget the terror of his trip.  He marries Stella and they have a son.  One day Mr. Kipp, his wife and infant son are at a fair.  Stella takes their son on a carriage ride while Mr. Kipp looks on.  As the carriage rounds the corner on its return trip, Mr. Kipp sees the Woman in Black step in front of the carriage, causing it to crash into a tree.  Mr. Kipp's son is killed instantly and Stella is grievously injured.  After 10 months of pain, Stella finally succumbs to her injuries, leaving Mr. Kipp as another victim of the bitter and angry spirit of the Woman in Black.
World Building - The atmosphere created by the author of this book was complete and enabled one to get lost in the moody and damp landscape.  The only real issue I had with the world building was how much of the book was spent describing the environment instead of showing it.  It felt like at least a third of the book was just descriptions of the dank marsh and the spooky, musty house.  While making a complete world, this also had the detrimental side effect of making the first 3/4 of the book a bit boring.  That being said, the setting was pretty perfect for the story.

Story - The actual ghost story part of this book is pretty awesome.  It was a story that was scary on two levels.  One, the story made sense, you could understand why the ghost was so angry and why she got revenge the way she did.  The second level of scary is that it involved innocent children.  It's bad enough when an adult with resources and reasoning is haunted, but when you involve children the chill factor jumps a least for me.  As for the rest of the story, again, the first 3/4 of the book was long drawn out set up that made me want to skip pages.  It wasn't until the last quarter of the book where I got super engrossed in the story so...

Characters - The characters where pretty much your average ghost story characters, slightly naive man, haunted villagers unwilling to part with information, the convenient friend, the cold recluse old lady, the angry spirit.  Nothing spectacular.  Nothing bad, just no real character development in anybody other then Mr. Kipp.  It was nice to see that he had overcome his past to a degree and found some happiness instead of letting it destroy him, but other then that pretty run of the mill characterization.

Editing - The combination of having this book be narrated in the first person and wanting this to be a full length book made most of it angsty and boring.  I am torn between blaming the author and blaming the editor for the pacing of this book.  The contrast between the excruciating slow bulk of the book and the amazingly creepy end of the book left me pretty frustrated and wondering how most people got far enough in to appreciate the spectacular last fourth of the story.  I personally feel that this would have been perfect for an under 100 pages story but that's just me.

Ghost Story - Let's get back to the ghost story part of this book for a minute shall we?  I was seriously scared for this part of the book.  After a ton of pages of feeling like I just wanted to put the book down it got really scary very quickly.  I really loved how squirmy and heart in the throat this part of the book made me.  I was in bed and even had a big strong Marine sleeping next to me and I STILL had the covers over my head!  This is what I look for in a good scary story.  Blood and gore don't really do it for me, but a great ghost story gives me all the chills.  I am pretty stoked that after slogging through so much blah, the pay off at least was pretty awesome.

The Movie - I loved the newest movie adaption of this book.  They definitely changed some things, but I felt, especially in movie format that the changes made the story even better.  In fact I liked the movie so much it inspired me to go hunt down other great ghost stories.  I totally got where the book inspired the creepiest parts of the movie, and the Eel Marsh House and surrounding environs were spot on match for the book.  Overall for a movie adaption I would strongly recommend it to anybody who prefers atmosphere and story over blood and gore for their chills.

Cause and Effect - I think the reason the actual ghost story part appeals to me is that it follows my own personal appreciation of cause and effect.  My favorite stories are ones where I can follow a reason for something to happen.  Many times, especially in supernatural tales, a ghost or spirit or monster is malevolent just because it makes the story scarier.  In stories like this, human actions have long term consequences AND the consequences are logical (or a logical as a bitter child killing ghost can be) to the actions that spawned them.  In this story a woman was forced to give up her child then had to watch him die a horrible death.  The consequences are that she now takes children away from their parents...makes sense in a way.  To me this is the potentially scariest thing ever 'cause it means that you have to be responsible for your actions or you or potentially innocent people will suffer for it.

Overall Impression - This is another case of a book I wanted to like a lot more then I did.  It was really excruciating to get through the majority of this book and the awesome chills I got from the last part may or may not make up for it.  In all honesty I will probably just skip to the good part if I ever read this book again.  I recommend it for anybody who has patience...or doesn't mind skipping right to the end.  I am torn because it was almost like reading two books, so I guess I give the first 3/4 of the book a 4 out of sheer boredom and the last 1/4 a 9 'cause it was super awesome...which averages to I don't know...maybe a 6 or 7 unreadable gravestones.  Anyways Happy Reading Everybody!

No comments:

Post a Comment