You might know Susan Hill from the book The Woman in Black, in which Harry Potter’s wife dies, and he’s quite sad.
No but seriously, this is a small ghost story (we are told it’s a ghost story on the cover of the book) and every extra-test element of this book reminds us it’s a ghost story.
So this is a small ghost story that begins in a evening meeting between a former student and former professor. It’s the kind of night for a ghost story, the professor tells us, as all ghost stories begin.
So begins the first frame within a frame for telling the story of a painting that is hanging on the wall. So our main narrator is listening to the origins of this painting, or its coming into his former professor’s possession, and then at times, we duck back into the present of the novel, and then back into the story again. Then, we get a third narrator who tells us her story about how she got the painting. And we end up with about one more narrator.
This book might as well be called Ghost Story, and it almost feels like a very taut, but not very funny parody of these types of stories. It’s not good enough for that because it’s both too trope laden to be serious and not good enough to be brilliant parody. Instead, it’s a relative weak novel that uses the conventions of the genre to hide its weaknesses.
It’s predictable in bad ways, and it’s committing the crime of referencing other famous stories (namely The Turn of the Screw and The Castle of Otranto) and not adding much to them or being shown in a good light in comparison to them.