The Woman in Black and The Haunting of Hill House – Snapshot Book Reviews

Snapshot reviews are short book reviews of around 200-250 words.

The Woman in Black

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Susan Hill
Genre: Horror
Publication year: 1983
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Death, death of a child, mental distress and trauma.

Review

The Woman in Black is a gothic horror which has been popularised over the last decade by the 2012 film adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe. It follows lawyer, Arthur Kipps, who goes to the small town of Crythin Gifford on a case. During his stay at his deceased client’s property, Eel Marsh House, Arthur has multiple eerie encounters with a woman in black. This is a slow-burn, atmospheric supernatural horror that is creepy and psychologically disturbing.

Whilst this novella is only about 200 pages, the story felt well-rounded and fairly paced. I was invested in the mystery of the woman in black and Arthur’s story. Arthur fulfilled many of the archetypes you’d expect for a protagonist in a Victorian classic horror novel, but despite his lack of originality, I felt a deep sympathy for him due to the impact the supernatural encounters he had had on his mental state.

Susan Hill’s writing style was immersive and perfectly captured the foreboding gothic horror atmosphere that I adore. The horror elements were simple but effective, relying on the setting and psychological elements to evoke feelings of dread and isolation. There was a strong emotionality throughout with emphasis on Arthur’s emotions and themes of grief and loss flowing throughout the narrative.

Overall, The Woman in Black was the perfect read for October. It had all the components I look for in horror novels and executed them well. Although it’s a very standard haunted house story, it was an enjoyable and gripping reading experience.

I’d recommend The Woman in Black if:

You’re looking for a Victorian horror classic that is a slow-burn, haunted house tale.

The Haunting of Hill House

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: Horror
Publication year: 1959
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Grief, death, suicide, mental illness, paranoia, gore,

Review

The Haunting of Hill House is another classic horror novel which has recently soared in popularity due to Netflix’s TV adaptation of the same title. But don’t be deceived; the book is its own story and very separate from the TV show. It tells the story of Doctor Montague, who sets out to investigate the presence of paranormal activity at Hill House. He is joined by three young guests, one of whom falls under the dark influence of the house. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations despite its promise.

I loved the setting of Hill House and the way that the house was crafted as a living, breathing entity entirely its own. However, the pace was meandering and the “big” moments were underwhelming. There was too much dialogue and trivial moments, making the action feel almost unearned. The supernatural scenes were too long and repetitive, and consequently ineffective at unsettling me. Although I related deeply to the protagonist Eleanor, and was interested in her descent throughout the novel, the other characters were flat and odd. In fact, that’s the word I would use to describe this book overall – odd.

I found the writing style to be disjointed and somewhat sloppy. The dialogue and the interactions between the characters felt out of place. Their immediate familiarity with each other and their sudden shifts in tone, mood and personality confused me. Whilst this was likely Jackon’s attempt to demonstrate the adverse affect the house was having on the characters, it wasn’t necessarily clear and I was lost multiple times throughout.

Overall, I liked the premise of The Haunting of Hill House, the setting and Eleanor’s character development. It was an entertaining read, but I’ve seen this type of haunted house tale done better elsewhere and found it to be very standard for the classic horror genre.

I’d recommend The Haunting of Hill House if:

You liked The Turn of the Screw OR are looking for a pschological haunted house horror story that will play with your mind.

Have you read The Woman in Black or The Haunting of Hill House or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Spooktober! 🎃

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Spooky book & film recommendations

Where has this year gone?! I feel like I’ve been in a weird time warp since Covid hit. Who am I? Where am I? When am I? Who knows? 😂 To mark the beginning of October, I decided to make a very unpredictable and unique post (/sarcasm) to share some spooky book and film recommendations for the autumn and Halloween season 🎃👻 Since I am an avid horror fan and almost exclusively watch horror films, I couldn’t resist adding some films into the mix. So here are 8 recommendations for horror/thriller books and films, 4 for each.

BOOKS

I Am Legend

This novella makes for a fast read and is ideal for a dark, spooky evening. It’s a unique vampire story with an intelligent, quick-witted and resillient protagonist. The post-apocalyptic setting is haunting and emotionally impactful and gave me The Walking Dead vibes when I read it.

Pet Sematary

Stephen King is generally not an author for me, and of all the King novels I’ve read, Pet Sematary is the only one I would recommend. It’s haunting, disturbing and provides a gruelling insight into the meaning of death and grief. There are scenes in this book that are genuinely spine tingling. The honesty and emotion that is depicted combined with the horror elements makes this an unforgettable and terrifying read.

If We Were Villains

This dark academia is the ideal autumnual read. It’s set at a performance university that specialises in Shakespeare and, like all dark academia’s follows a group of students in the aftermath of the mysterious deaths of one of their friends. It’s fast paced mystery that’s both dramatic and hard-hitting with Shakespearian influences running throughout.

Dracula

It’s a classic for a reason. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the epitome of vampire gothic fiction. With it’s slow building plot and atmospheric setting, it continues to pile on the suspense and mystery throughout. Admittedly, it loses some of its impact since the nature of Count Dracula is common knowledge and cemented in pop culture, but it’s a thrilling and enjoyable read if you’re looking for a slow paced and intense gothic horror.

FILMS

Hell House LLC

Hell House LLC is a stellar example of the found-footage genre and why it works so well. It follows a group of friends that visit a haunted house to investigate a tragic accident that happened there years previously. The tension is slowly built and the atmosphere is effectively creepy. There’s an authenticity to the story that makes you feel invested and it doesn’t rely on cheap scares and tricks. It’s a must-watch for any fans of found-footage and haunted houses.

Triangle

One of the most unique, mind-bending and thrilling horrors I’ve ever seen. The film begins with the main character Jess, heading off on a sailing trip with a guy she knows from work and a few of his friends, but things don’t quite go to plan. You might think you know what’s going to happen but I guarantee you won’t. Triangle continually takes twists and turns, keeping you guessing and forcing you to question what you think you know.

Identity

This one is for those of you that don’t like the more hardcore horrors and are looking for more of a thriller-mystery. Identity is the older film out of the four I’ve chosen, but a true gem. Ten strangers find themselves stranded at a motel in the middle of a storm and are killed by an unknown killer one by one. It’s an unpredictable and genuinely intruiging plot that will keep you guessing throughout.

Haunt

Haunt has gained some recognition in horror circles recently and it’s well deserved. Although it may first appear to be another teen-scream horror maze film, it exceeds that. It’s entertaining and steeped in tension with strong performances. Of all the films on this list, it’s the perfect Halloween watch.

Happy October, my lovelies and keep reading.