Susan Hill doing what she does best, weaving a complicated tapestry of human emotions. Set mainly in Cambridge and the beautifully evoked Fens it's haSusan Hill doing what she does best, weaving a complicated tapestry of human emotions. Set mainly in Cambridge and the beautifully evoked Fens it's hard to decide which time period this is set in but the characters are as fully defined as ever....more
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 iReview 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 seemed to me. Susan always leaves room for ambiguity. You are never quite sure who is the villain or the victim or even if it is ever quite that easy to believe things are ever so black and white. This might seem to be a very short novel but even after the last word has been read there is plenty to think about and to wonder about. ...more
Another beautifully written book from Susan Hill. Not many writers can pull off the trick of writing something so rooted in the emotions (loves, expecAnother beautifully written book from Susan Hill. Not many writers can pull off the trick of writing something so rooted in the emotions (loves, expectations, regrets, mortality) and thoughts of the central characters that also engages the reader so thoroughly. ...more
I too first read this book for my GCSE exams way back in the 80s. I recently reread it and it seemed like another book entirely. Perspective in your oI too first read this book for my GCSE exams way back in the 80s. I recently reread it and it seemed like another book entirely. Perspective in your own life really does affect how literature can be perceived. ...more
Moving account of one woman, virtually isolated, dealing with the loss of her husband and all that follows as a result. Beautifully written (as ever),Moving account of one woman, virtually isolated, dealing with the loss of her husband and all that follows as a result. Beautifully written (as ever), inspiring and ultimately hopeful....more
WARNING!!! This book could seriously disrupt your life on the grounds of it being almost impossible to put down. Originally written in six novellas inWARNING!!! This book could seriously disrupt your life on the grounds of it being almost impossible to put down. Originally written in six novellas in the Dickensian tradition The Green Mile tells the story of a group of prisoners and the guards who watch over them in a small 'death house', waiting their turn at the electric chair in 1932. It stands alongside his Dark Tower books as being some of King's finest work. I can only imagine what it must have been like having to read them novella by novella with time in between: It must have been like Hell and Christmas five times in a year....more
More brilliance from the pen of Susan Hill. To write a short story that has any kind of resonance or emotional impact is a lot harder than it sounds.More brilliance from the pen of Susan Hill. To write a short story that has any kind of resonance or emotional impact is a lot harder than it sounds. Hill delivers with nearly every story. This collection is perhaps not quite a consistent as her other anthology A Bit of Singing and Dancing but I can't really bring myself to give it four stars as this is still far better than most books that get four stars from me....more
This one caught me during one of my escape to the lakehouse with a pile of books weeks so I was able tune into the themes about loneliness and the powThis one caught me during one of my escape to the lakehouse with a pile of books weeks so I was able tune into the themes about loneliness and the power of books more easily than I would at home. I'd recommend finding a quiet place to read this undisturbed in one sitting....more
Review from my blog. An emotional read. Rowan is 13 and it's 1939. The Second World War has just started. The country is gripped by paranoia and fear.Review from my blog. An emotional read. Rowan is 13 and it's 1939. The Second World War has just started. The country is gripped by paranoia and fear. Fears of German spies are running wild. Thoughts of threat of invisible killer gas attacks and wondering when the bombs will start to fall occupy the minds of the nation. This is a very bad time to be exhibiting the first signs of schizophrenia as young Rowan does. After an incident where he violently breaks three of his sister's fingers with a piano lid followed by another incident with a knife, the boy is admitted to a place which promises to put him to rights. Unbeknown to his family, he is soon used as an experimental test subject in the use of a new process being trialled in Italy. Electroconvulsive therapy. The book is extremely well handled with some great characters. I loved Dorothea. But there are other fascinating characters to get to know like Doctor Von whose psychological journey is almost as traumatic as some of his test subjects. The passages where the Nazis' policy is revealed to Doctor Von for killing children who are institutionalized disabled or mentally ill by compulsory euthanasia are truly chilling.The story has some clever parallels with The Wizard of Oz, and the physical performance of Peter Pan as the Christmas pantomime has a profound affect on many of the troubled inhabitants of the psychiatric hospital. Very compelling and memorable. There are two other books by Julie Hearn that are about Rowan's mother and grandmother. I shall seek them out....more
On the morning that Fiona Robyn emailed me to tell me I’d won a signed copy of The Blue Handbag I also got another unexpected though pleasant surpriseOn the morning that Fiona Robyn emailed me to tell me I’d won a signed copy of The Blue Handbag I also got another unexpected though pleasant surprise. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker was seen in my garden… or so I’m told. I didn’t see him myself. I missed him. I’ve seen them before on my travels but never in my own garden. Maybe he’ll come back.
A few days later the book arrives. There is still no sign of my elusive new visitor and the weather has gone to clouds and showers, turning the garden into an unfit place for either bird watching or book reading. I start the book anyway and begin to get acquainted with the main protagonist. I like Leonard almost from the start. He has a quality that reminds me of my Grandad, who was probably one of my most favourite people in existence. But Leonard is far too fanciful, and on occasion silly, for that comparison to stand much scrutiny. I soon realize that a closer mark for comparison might be myself. The clowning about, the wandering imagination and sadly the Ta-da! moments are all things I’ve been guilty of. The paragraph about Leonard not being able to stop himself mimicking accents even elicited a 'Bloody Hell!' of self recognition from me.
The characterisations throughout are one of the books strengths. The book never overloads with too many characters at a time. You can imagine these people having a life beyond the last page of the novel. I caught myself wondering what Leonard thought of the new bloke on Springwatch this year. And was he missing Bill? Was he drawn to the science or the aesthetics of nature? Probably a mix of the two I conclude. I’m glad he learnt that ducks aren’t just for kids. Ducks are great.
The mystery that begins with a blue handbag takes it’s time to unfold, small clues are uncovered as the months pass and the seasons turn. I like Fiona’s writing. Some of the passages seep into your head like a cool balm straight to the brain. The only time my eyes started to slightly glaze over was the penguin sequence.
It was such a shame that the weather remained dull over the weekend when I read this because it would have been a perfect read in the garden book. I haven’t read The Letters yet, so I’ll just add that to my to-read list after I finish up here. Maybe by the time I read it I’ll have caught a glimpse of that woodpecker. The tree he landed on now has a new birdfeeder. He’s out there somewhere - probably in the wood further up the hill. One day he might come back.
Review from Badelynge The heroine, and faithful scribe, of this tale is one Bessy Buckley, or so she introduces herself. She's a young Irish girl, runnReview from Badelynge The heroine, and faithful scribe, of this tale is one Bessy Buckley, or so she introduces herself. She's a young Irish girl, running away from a mother who has ruthlessly exploited her from an early age. She arrives at a ramshackle mansion, somewhere near Edinburgh, where she is taken on as a housemaid by the mistress of the house, Arabella Reid. The 'missus' as she calls her soon has young Bessy confused and bewildered by a succession of seemingly random and mostly pointless requests. And every night she must write an account of the day's events along with her inner thoughts. Despite all this Bessy develops a fierce loyalty for her mistress and then she finds out, by the chance discovery of Arabella's in-progress book 'The Observations', what the object of her devotions is really up to and tellingly what her opinions of Bessy are. What happens next is best left for the story to tell, but it is a fascinating read that weaves Bessy's dark past, the mysterious fate of her predecessor, Arabella's paragon of all house maids, Nora, and Arabella's own secrets into a startlingly engaging narrative mystery. Bessy is a wonderful character, who colours her tale with the most vivid and sometimes lurid slang and colloquialisms. I'm often put off by such inclusions, though in this case they are pretty much essential to the style and don't distract at all. Though being a native of northern England, where many of the expressions are still in common use or fondly remembered from use by my Grandparents, I could be more immune from irritation than the average reader. Bessy is also not averse to casting ridicule on the people she recounts by exaggerating or over annotating their speech patterns and accents. The more she despises them the more extreme the exaggeration. I think it's no accident that Hector, the sex obsessed Highlander, gets the brunt of it. The Observations is an excellent début novel. I've read the latest book by Jane Harris, 'Gillespie and I', which appeared some 5 years after 'The Observations' - so if you enjoyed this book I'd recommend you look it up with all due dispatch. ...more