Category Archives: Supernatural

The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

My latest read was fuelled by a desire to conquer my fear, a genuine attempt at tackling one of my long-standing fears head on. So I read The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

Firstly let me clarify that I have had a fear of The Woman in Black since I was 16! My first encounter was seeing the play at the theatre with the rest of my Drama class. As much as I could tell you what an amazing performance it was, and how the minimalist effects were perfectly executed- it was so much more. It was an outstanding performance which has successfully cemented a fear in me of The Woman in Black. Just thinking about it makes me shiver, and afterwards I had nightmares for 2 months. Now that’s some performance!

Then there came the film with Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Arthur Kipps. Admittedly there are differences between the film and the theatre adaptations, but these were to be expected. But the film succeeded in re-instating my fear of The Woman in Black, and taking it to a whole new level. The film brought The Woman in Black’s dreadful and terrifying face right into my personal space- I must get round to writing a thank you card to the relative who bought me the DVD!
To this day there are parts of that film that I have not been able to watch, simply because I was able to watch the sequence leading up to it, and then my nerves gave out and the cushion moved in front of my face, so fast it’s become a permanent reflex whenever The Woman in Black is mentioned.

It wasn’t until I saw my brother with a copy of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, that I then realised that both the film and theatre productions are adaptations from an existing work; therefore I’d done it all backwards!

The Woman in Black

So moving on to my most recent encounter with The Woman in Black….Susan Hill’s novel was much more subtle and eerie than I imagined. She successfully depicts the drab and desolate Eel Marsh House so poignantly that it’s an image hard to forget.
I didn’t know what else to expect from the novel, but I enjoyed the reminiscent ‘retelling’ perspective. Whatever horrors the story revealed, there was a survivor, able to tell the harrowing tale in great detail.

Somehow when reading Kipp’s tragic story, it hit me much harder than it did when I saw the play or film- and don’t forget the film ends completely differently to the book. Hill shows literary skill in creating such an ordinary character, whose life bears no resemblance to my own; and yet throughout the novel I cared for him. I cared for his welfare; for his sanity and for his family; almost as much as I care for my own.

What many readers forget in heavy action or mystery novels are the easy to miss, mundane and everyday occurrences. But rather than skip these events, Hill uses them to build her readers a solid picture of Arthur Kipps; giving us a reliable and believable centre for the plot. The relating of normal, everyday events makes the supernatural events starker than they would have been if the entire novel was littered with them. In fact I was surprised by the end, when you count the relatively few encounters Arthur Kipps has with The Woman in Black, the affect those encounters had not only on Kipps but myself as well…if you’re not even slightly shaken by the retelling of Kipp’s story, then you’re made of stronger stuff than me.

I did find the ending a little bleak as it seemed to just tail off into nothing. It did end for Mr Kipps at least, that much was clear. But it was a little abrupt; it’s not quite a cliff-hanger so there’s no build up or expectation for a second novel; but you don’t get much satisfaction in it either. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected more from a thriller/ horror novel, but I did want more for poor Mr Kipps.

Did reading the novel put my fears to rest? Well not so much, for a few nights I was jumpy amongst the hallway shadows. But I did feel I understood Arthur Kipps and his story much better, and enjoyed the experience whilst reading it. Those chapters which delved into the back story of The Woman in Black were fascinating, I simply wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery- I wanted to be able to put her spirit to rest. When a book can give you the same chills as a play or film, then you know you’re onto something good!

© Gemma Feltham, 25th July 2015

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Filed under Fiction, Horror, Supernatural, Thriller

Carrie- Stephen King

Stephen King is one of the most recommended and loved horror novelists, until now I’d only seen two films based on King’s work, so as my first introduction to Stephen King’s novels I selected Carrie.

The first thing that hit me when I started reading Carrie was curiosity as to how similar the novel and film would be. But I quickly forgot about any kind of comparison; as the novel quickly had me engrossed in the narrative and compelled to keep reading right until the very end.Carrie The format of Carrie threw me at first, written from numerous perspectives, jumping between different time frames and interjections written in note format throughout- it certainly wasn’t your typical novel style, and not what I expected. Once passed the first few chapters I had gotten used to the flow of novel- I found the trick was to simply read it, not try to analyse it, not trying to remember what happened next in the film, and not trying to make the flow of events or how they are dictated; fit to any other written style.

I had high expectations for King’s narrative style, his reputation would not be what it is if he couldn’t deliver- and I was not disappointed. His attitude to Carrie’s story is extremely sympathetic, and his true skill in manipulating the reader really shines when by the end of the book it’s still Carrie White that the reader feels sorry for; despite all the death she causes.

Admittedly knowing the ending of the book was slightly disappointing but, reading the run up of events, finding out about Carrie’s history with her mother (much more than you get from the film) was very entertaining, it kept the novel grounded in a recognisable reality, despite its paranormal plot.
Carrie herself is a character which many readers would understand on some level, sharing some of her experiences and emotions and having that connection to the main character is what makes this novel more terrifying- the idea that perhaps you, the reader, could be as destructive a force as Carrie would make you think twice.

Overall Carrie was an enjoyable read, it may not have left me with nightmares but I’m certainly not complaining. The plot was gripping the twists were engaging and for the most part the characters were realistic and believable. If you’re considering trying King’s work I would recommend Carrie as the novel for dipping your toe into the horror genre.

© Gemma Feltham 13 June 2015

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Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale, by David Andrew Crawford

Dark Solus: An Assassin’s tale is a fantasy tale that is truly filled with adventure, battles and some raw emotion. The start of the n but novel is intriguing and suitably suspenseful, it certainly sets the scene for the kind of world the reader is going to enter; at the same time it’s not overly detailed so the rest of the novel has plenty to offer.

Moving on as you read further you’ll find the novel has a good pace, with interesting characters being introduced all the time, consistently adding depth, intrigue and much appreciated context to the events of the main character’s (Dark Solus) journey. However during my reading I was not totally taken with the choice of names used. Whilst the names are somewhat unusual and therefore fitting with the fantasy genre, it found all but the name ‘Mephisto’ was somewhat lacking. In this I include Dark Solus. His name does fit the role he must take on during the novel and befits his history, but I felt it was somewhat out of line with my perception of the rest of his character.

Dark SolusCrawford has a good use of adjectives, his depiction of a hell-horse is not only unusual as I’m normally greeted by hell-hounds or the knights of hell and even the apocalypse horsemen, but it’s also an incredibly thoughtful quite frankly beautiful and depiction. Another impressive nod to this skill is the paragraph in which Mephisto transforms himself into an imaginatively detailed, well-timed and a plot twist which hints at other striking plot twist possibilities. In keeping with this level of detail is the magic lessons between Dark and Mephisto, which I found very interesting as this is an area of fantasy I find many authors skip over, or rely on the reader to assume the character’s level of skill.

By Chapter six the reader will have proof that Crawford is capable of producing believable, engaging and detailed battle scenes time and time again. Although violent in nature (as most epic battles are) and seemingly cruel, Crawford never lets the reader forget that all the violence and cruelty comes from a boy with a tragic past and a promise to fulfil and perhaps readers will feel more sympathetic towards Dark for this.  By chapter seven a story of love, loss, revenge, and magic has truly blossomed into a decent work of fiction.

At one point in chapter seven I found an amusing homage to what I could only recognise as Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson and ‘The Stigg’. Though amusing it was unnecessary and I felt it actually spoilt the atmosphere of the novel, by removing me as the reader from the world of magic I’d settled into, making it feel all the more out of place.

It’s clear there are a variety of literary and cultural influences within Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale from the Greek fates, harpies, Hades and Kraken like creature; to Viking Thor and Loki (Lore) right through to Tolkien’s dwarves with a lost home. Not forgetting the trials of Heracles (Hercules) which are clearly reflected in the quest Dark undertakes throughout his journey.

It’s a bit of a mish-mash but Crawford pulls apart each influence,  using only what’s necessary and doesn’t let his inspirations digress from telling Dark’s story. As a reader picking out each influence as you read further is interesting and I found myself all the more engaged with the novel by being able to do so.

There are plenty of back stories Crawford could utilise and expand upon into short stories, which I would certainly be interested in reading. It has such a rich mythology and detailed sub-plots that there are plenty to choose from and fan fiction fantasy writers would also do well to give this novel a try.

Overall Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale is well worth the read for fantasy lovers, but also it’s got a bit of everything so it’s a good choice for introducing young or reluctant readers to not only the genre but reading in general which is always a plus.

© Gemma Feltham 2nd June 2014

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Filed under Fantasy, Supernatural