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The Beacon

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  509 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
What happens to a family when one of the brothers publishes his “misery memoir?” Is his litany of childhood torment a complete invention? Or was there really a cupboard under the stairs?

The farmhouse was called The Beacon and they had been born and reared there, May, Colin, Frank and Berenice, but only May had been left for the last 27 years . . .

May had been the clever da
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published May 11th 2009 by Chatto & Windus (first published October 2nd 2008)
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Marlee Pinsker
Nov 20, 2010 Marlee Pinsker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Frank Prime's quest for fame and fortune is about to spark disaster for his family back at their remote farm. Stars Manon Edwards.

So what??
Bernadette Robinson
9/10 or 4.5 stars.

This is a short novella but it sure does pack a punch in my opinion. It is a very thought provoking little book. Susan Hill paints with her words a picture of family life in The Beacon, but for one member of the Prime family his childhood appears to be at odds to everyone else's.

The Beacon is a bleak read and conveys well the family life of the Prime family. Isn't it odd how certain outcomes are arrived at. Poor May had her chance of a dfferent life but returned to the family h
Her writing is so stark and uncompromising. I wanted very much to find this book beautiful, to find the way it was written poetic, because it put so many images into my head. But it wasn't, and I put the poetry there myself, although Susan Hill left me all the right places to put it.

This time last year, I had returned home from a year studying, intellectually and emotionally exhausted and scared of what was going to happen next. If I had read this book then I don't know what it would have done t
Jun 01, 2015 Leonardo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of world-shaking literature
Recommended to Leonardo by: Cecilia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 24, 2015 Fictionophile rated it it was amazing
A small gem, this story portrays the life of the spinster daughter of a farming family set on a remote English hillside. The novella is so well written that you can almost hear the wind battering the old farmhouse and the reader feels the protagonist’s mixed emotions when following the death of her parents a family secret in revealed…
Carey Combe
Mar 26, 2010 Carey Combe rated it it was ok
I loved the premise of this book and she has a beautiful style and would have given it a four, but I felt really let down by the ending which didn’t resolve anything - ok the argument being that thats what happens in life but this is a book written by an omnipresent author and I was disappointed not to get any answers.
Jun 19, 2015 Roberta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, uk
Purtroppo non ho trascritto nessuna citazione da questa novella, anche se ci sarebbero state molte occasioni (ma quando leggo lontana dal pc, di solito sono così concentrata che non mi scomodo nemmeno a tenere vicini gli amati segnapagina…)

The Beacon racconta la storia di una famiglia: quattro fratelli e sorelle (Colin, Frank, May, Berenice) crescono in una fattoria insieme ai genitori, John e Bertha. Colin e Berenice si sposano e rimangono in zona. Frank, da sempre solitario e misterioso, si tr
May 27, 2011 truthnwisdom rated it really liked it
Hmmm... a fellow member, Michael, recommended the book to me. I picked it up today and for the first time in the longest while, finished a book in one evening.

I just could not put it down. It was an easy read with very simple prose yet would stir much emotions. There are a few lines which I really love in the book... "Life changed. Life stayed the same." depicts the scene so fittingly after the passing of John Prime, leaving his eldest child, May and his wife, Bertha. "He woke up wondering abou
Kris McCracken
Jul 10, 2011 Kris McCracken rated it liked it
The Beacon is an odd little novel that explores concepts like family, ambition, truth (all that jazz). Riffing off the question of what happens to those implicated by the rise of 'misery memoirs' ('grief porn'?).

At the centre of the book is the strangely stilted May Prime, sister of Frank, who has written a bestseller called about his cruel childhood at a remote North Country farm through the 1950s. In it he accuses his late father of terrible cruelty and his family of collusion.

Although Frank's
Mary Gilligan-Nolan
Oct 04, 2011 Mary Gilligan-Nolan rated it really liked it
I picked this up at my local library accidently, and wasn't even quite sure if I would read it. But I do like Susan Hill, so I gave it a go. I read it in a couple of hours, as it is not a very long book. It was a delight to read. The story is simple enough, about a family, Colin, May, Frank and Berenice Prime and their parents, who live in a remote farmhouse in the North Country and their lives as children and adults being raised on a farm. The story mainly centers around May, the spinster siste ...more
Jun 19, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, fiction, 2009, review
Review from my blog.
Every time I write anything about Susan Hill I worry that I'm repeating myself. She's just a brilliant writer. Reading her books is like watching an artist create a picture brush stroke by brush stroke, sentence by sentence. She writes with great economy, achieving with ten words what some writers struggle to convey with fifty. The Beacon is about how isolated in themselves people can be, shaped by their memories, perceptions and expectations. Or at least that is how it seeme
Nov 15, 2015 Julie rated it it was amazing
The Beacon is a subtle, multilayered book about families, identity, memory and duty. It packs a great deal into its 150-odd pages and is consistently engaging and enthralling. The Beacon is a bleak farm somewhere in the north of England where generations of the Prime family have sweated and laboured to make a living. The book focuses on a post war generation of four siblings of which two marry and live locally, one (the eldest daughter) makes a clean break off to university in London, but return ...more
Aug 21, 2014 Penny rated it it was ok
I love Susan Hill and this is probably a bit harsh could push to 2.5. Still irks me to pay 7.99 for such a slim book. Anyway. The book. As in A Kind Man she writes about death. She does it well but just not a cheerful read. The whole book just felt so sad. A story about a family but not a close family. Troubled relationships culminating in Frank causing serious upset by writing about his childhood. The impact of this on all of them including him is huge. Not top of my list! ...more
Mary Miller
Sep 30, 2014 Mary Miller rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, literary
Susan Hill is perhaps best known for the play and book "The Woman in Black" (recently made into a film) and the Simon Serrailer mystery series. I have read several books by her and have found her to be easily read and thought-provoking at the same time.
"The Beacon", at 154 pages, is too long for a novella and not long enough to satisfy as a novel. But true to form, it is serious and thought-provoking. "The Beacon" tells the story of the Prime family who live on a remote farm in the north of Engl
Jan 26, 2010 Bowerbird rated it it was ok
A woman who has cared for her aged mother is also trapped by her own insecurities. Can she break free after her mother dies? How much has brother Frank damaged the family? The now derelict farm and its lack of livestock seem to symbolise May's broken personality.
When we find out the cause of the damage done to the family we do understand why it continues to haunt May and her siblings.
However, this is a book which asks more questions than it gives answers.
Alison C
Mar 09, 2015 Alison C rated it it was ok
Following up the recent series novel by Susan Hill that I just read with a novella by her from 2008, The Beacon is a stand-alone short novel about an ordinary English farming family in mid-20th-Century moving toward the 21st, two parents and four children, growing up and living ordinary lives, some more content and some less so. But one of the siblings, Frank the second son, makes a mark in London as a journalist and, after marrying a wealthy widow who (conveniently) dies early, writes a best-se ...more
Claire McAlpine
Sep 06, 2011 Claire McAlpine rated it really liked it
Recently discovered Susan Hill as an author and this is the second book of hers I've read, not too dissimilar to 'A Kind Man' in the way it is written, interesting study on character and the dynamics of family and the effect of things left unsaid. This story also an interesting perspective on using family members or real people as fodder in fiction. Looking forward to reading more of her.
Jan 29, 2010 Gerda rated it it was ok
It was a good enough read. The ending was not to my liking. It didn't go anywhere. The book had no clue. The characters were not developing into something, going somewhere. The mystery of the book Frank wrote remained a mystery. I wouldn't recommend reading it, there are other books waiting that will be much more rewarding to read. I will have forgotten about this one pretty soon.
Linda K
Feb 12, 2011 Linda K rated it liked it
Puzzling story about a family with 4 children with one of them committing a terrible tragedy of untruth against the others. Story moves back and forth from early times to older and is compelling in the way it takes your mind in various thought patterns. Outcome is surprising and left me confused. Author writes with skill and picks the reader up on her train of thought for a good ride.
Karen Osment
Jan 09, 2014 Karen Osment rated it liked it
This is the first book I have read by Susan Hill and it was an enjoyable short story. She describes the setting, family and emotions very well but I am still left a little confused by the ending, despite many google searches to find out the answer!
Jun 03, 2009 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-reads
A short but absolutely brilliant book. A subtle and atmospheric story which leaves many questions unanswered but that only makes it all the more thought-provoking. An excellent choice for a book club.
Jan 29, 2012 Kirsty rated it liked it
Takes about 2/3 of the book to get going, but when it does it's a lovely and sad depiction of wasted lives.
Kevin Darbyshire
Mar 22, 2016 Kevin Darbyshire rated it really liked it
Having read quite a few books by Susan Hill I am amazed by how she changes her style of writing. I just read one of the ghost stories and another of the detective novels and was really underwhelmed by both but this story has reinvigorated my interest in the author. A really unusual story with complex and totally credible characters. I loved the way the "Beacon" was described and the clever way the claustrophobic atmosphere was created. An unusual ending to the story with the reader drawing their ...more
Jan 11, 2010 Jo rated it it was ok
Saved by some beautiful prose, otherwise I'd have only given this one star
Jan 28, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing
A wonderful read by the inimitable Susan Hill. With great economy and masterful simplicity, she tells of the Prime siblings, brought up by loving parents at Beacon Farm. May is exceptionally talented, but can't deal with university. Brother Colin and sister Berenice are more confident and enjoy life. And then there is spooky Frank; silent, but 'there' and 'watching'. Turmoil ensues when in his forties, Frank, without warning publishes a best selling memoir in which they all appear. The shock rev ...more
As Joyce Carol Oates writes in We Were The Mulvaneys, what is a family except memories? In The Beacon, Susan Hill addresses this central question along with how do we deal with our memories.

The Beacon is a farmhouse in the wild north of England, inhabited by the Prime family - mother, father, and four children: Colin, May, Berenice, and Frank. The story focuses on May and her life - or rather her lack of life. She has the opportunity to leave home to study at university, to make something of he
Ian Laird
Sep 15, 2014 Ian Laird rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I discovered Susan Hill through her entertaining report - Howard’s End is on the Landing - on a year of reading books lying around her eighteenth century farmhouse.

In coming up with a final list of 40 books - she demonstrated her taste, judgement and erudition as well as her friendships, acquaintanceships and serial brushings with the literati of her generation and earlier, through her work as writer, interviewer, publisher and broadcaster. Susan Hill introduced me to authors I might have otherw
Dec 27, 2013 Aileen rated it really liked it
The Prime family lived in the hillside farm called The Beacon, the children grew up, married and moved within the neighbourhood, apart from May who lived with her parents, and Frank who moved away to London after always being in the background, watching, taking everything in but never joining in. The book opens with the death of May's mother; the family are informed and all are agreed that they won't contact Frank to let him know. The inference is that he's done something bad in the recent past ...more
May 31, 2013 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, found
I picked this up at a book swap; I haven't ever read any Susan Hill before, although I do remember once hearing her speak at a literary festival. It's so short it's almost a novella, but like Alice Munro she can convey whole lives in a few words.

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Susan Hill was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1942. Her hometown was later referred to in her novel A Change for the Better (1969) and some short stories especially "Cockles and Mussels".

She attended Scarborough Convent School, where she became interested in theatre and literature. Her family left Scarborough in 1958 and moved to Coventry where her father worked in car and aircraft factor
More about Susan Hill...

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