The Small Hand by Susan Hill

Readers of Susan Hill's earlier works, in particular her modern classic, The Woman In Black, will know that she is a writer of beautifully-crafted ghost stories, full of all the subtleties and sensitive shifts in mood and atmosphere that all good ghost stories should have. The Small Hand doesn't disappoint on that score. As antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow becomes more and more affected by the 'small hand' of an invisible child that grips his as he explores the grounds of a dilapidated country house, the mood shifts gradually and insidiously as the small hand takes his more and more often and begins to reveal a more sinister purpose.

The Small Hand really does have all the ingredients of a classic ghost story. A creepy old manor house, the unlocking of the secrets of the past, a steady building of tension, a truly unsettling scene with echoes of Miss Havisham, and a startling revelatory ending that suggests that maybe, Adam Snow has been closer to true horror all his life than he could ever have realised.

However, for me, the ending - while clever and utterly unexpected - is also the book's weakest point. Its revelation is shocking, but oddly perfunctory, and I wanted just a little more detail to exploit its nature to the full. I wanted just a little bit more from it - and when I say 'a little bit', I mean a little. Three or four lines could have accomplished it. But this is a small gripe; apart from that, The Small Hand was close to being a flawless English story in the tradition of MR James, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Comments

  1. Ha! After work... I feel for you, people make me do that too! I keep having doubts about my reluctance though, maybe it would be a better world if I were more social? People seem to appreciate it when one makes an effort. Then again, I´m too egoistic to be all about pleasing. But maybe it would be a better world if I were less egoistic? On the other hand, if I suppress myself I´ll start losing sleep and then I´ll go completely crazy and be of no use to anyone. See? Me thinking is a disaster in progress =) I´m so much better when I read, people should pay me to do that. I´ll see if I can get my hands on that book you recommend.

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  2. I, on the other hand, *never* have doubts about my reluctance. No good could ever come of me being more sociable, LOL! I find company quite draining. I can enjoy the company of friends, but I still find it tiring. And although some of the people I work with are nice, I wouldn't count them as friends...

    I used to make excuses all the time for how unsociable I am, but in my old age I find I'm becoming increasingly open about it.

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  3. In your old age LOL! We all talk about being old from time to time. What if we live to be eighty? What will we call ourselves then? Ancient? I´m very aware of my age today since it is *gasps* yes, my birthday. I hope I never grow out of celebrating my birthday, I really enjoy it even though we don´t make a big event out of it (since I´m not that social...), but I sort of like the small attention -- people calling and sending me cards, it´s nice.

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