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Mini Gothic Reviews:


(Just a little note before I get into today’s post: I won’t be posting three times a week anymore. Trying to fit blogging around working, university and reading is proving a little difficult at the minute, so I’ll be posting twice a week instead. I hope you understand!)

In the last semester of my undergraduate degree, I studied a module dedicated to Gothic literature titled ‘Vamps & Villains’. I don’t tend to read that much Gothic fiction. I’m never creeped out by them, and if I am it doesn’t tend to last for long. I’m also never convinced by the story, so there’s that.

Thanks to uni, however, I’ve stumbled across two novels that immediately drew me in. As I don’t have a huge amount to say on each books, I thought I’d stick them both into one. Here’s my review of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House | 3 stars:

Shirley Jackson managed to capture an utterly eerie atmosphere in The Haunting of Hill House, which is something that lacks in Gothic fiction for me. I was constantly on edge. The writing was beautiful yet creepy, and the setting was perfectly Gothic. In a nutshell, it ticked all the boxes. I specifically liked the idea of four people, completely unknown to each other, meet up in a haunted house to conduct an investigation for an upcoming book. Straightaway, I was intrigued.

However, it started to lack towards the middle. Despite more supernatural occurrences happening, I found myself getting less unnerved by them. I’m not sure why, though, because they truly creeped me out at the start. Maybe they started happening too often, or in a non-unsettling way? I just don’t know…

Despite this, I really enjoyed the possession of Eleanor. It was completely unexpected. I didn’t even realise it happened until the very end (is this a good or bad thing, though?). The house was alive and it was living inside of Eleanor, taking full control of her mind, body and soul. I loved the idea of the house being a separate entity; it had so much power that it ended Eleanor’s story like that (even though it’s not explicitly stated – it’s rather ambiguous the ending).

All in all, this was a pretty average read. I enjoyed the story, but I wasn’t totally convinced. My favourite thing, albeit a little frustrating, was the ambiguity surrounding Eleanor. The novel made me question whether she was truly possessed, or if she was just emotionally disturbed – a question I still don’t know the answer to.

The Woman in Black | 3.5 stars:

I first read this back in 2012 when the movie adaptation came out. I distinctly remember hating it – it dragged so much. Fast forward six years, and I was asked to re-read it for uni. I was reluctant after last time, but I’m glad I gave it another chance. I enjoyed it so much more the second time round.

Arthur Kipps is sent to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow in Crythin Gifford. He is to go through her papers and finalise everything, but something isn’t right. There’s a mysterious woman cloaked in black wandering the town and the locals seem terrified by God knows what. Kipps is forbidden to stay at Eel Marsh House but mother nature had other plans. Stuck there one night, he is haunted by sounds playing in the nursery, a disappearing figure and the sound of drowning people on the marshes. It’s here he discovers the true reasons behind the hauntings. And the Woman in Black hasn’t finished with her revenge just yet…

This time round, I was fully immersed in the story. It felt like a true ghost story. I was unsettled and unnerved, which is an achievement in itself. I think it’s the best ghost story I’ve read, despite the average rating. My favourite aspect was the narrator. I connected to him on a personal level as I accessed his thoughts and feelings through the framed narration. The accessible narrator allowed me to be in a position where I felt vulnerable as a reader, which worked well in the story’s favour.

Hill did exceptionally well at capturing a true ghost story. It was constantly unsettling, and I was never not convinced by it. She didn’t go overboard with the story, yet it never lacked. It was the perfect balance. I think the story behind The Woman in Black is really interesting. The hauntings were all connected to children; the mother was getting revenge for what happened to her child. It showed the lengths mothers go to for their child, which added a deeper level to the story.

Honestly, I don’t know why this isn’t getting a four stars. Perhaps it’s because I rushed reading it, and didn’t absorb all the good things about it. Maybe it was because I still held onto my grudges from the first time. I just don’t know. Either way, it’s improved from my last rating at 2 stars. I would definitely recommend; it’s easy and eerie!

Despite them both receiving semi-average ratings from me, I would still happily recommend them. Both are enjoyable and even managed to unnerve me at times (which, as I’ve already said, is an irregular occurrence). I think they’re both solid examples of Gothic fiction.

What are your favourite Gothic stories? Any recommendations for me?

Thanks for reading, Lauren X


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