A ghostly story for autumnal nights

The Small Hand by Susan Hill.

Susan Hill is justly renowned for her ghost stories – her best-known one is The Woman in Black which is both chilling and a darned good read.  The Small Hand is her latest, and I thoroughly enjoyed it too.

It starts off simply.  Adam Snow, an antiquarian bookseller is on his way home from meeting a client when he gets lost up winding country roads. Looking for somewhere to get directions he finds an old overgrown garden with a rambling and rather closed-up white house. Just when he thinks he’s totally alone, he feels  a small hand take his – but there’s no-one there. Adam puts it down to an overactive imagination, but over the following weeks he starts to get slightly paranoid and he has what he believes is a full-on panic attack.  He goes on a book-hunting trip abroad and he feels the hand again – but this time it is pulling him towards a precipice, and from hereon in things start to get dangerously spookier.

This short novel has only 167 small pages and only needs one sitting – indeed taking a break in the middle could deflate the tension.  Hill has great skill in crafting books where ‘less is more’ and not a word is wasted.  Adam narrates his own story, and this really involves the reader as we share in his experiences; him being a bookseller was an added bonus for me too.  After his initial encounter we’re lulled into a false sense of security until events take a different turn; the pace picks up and we’re pulled along towards the shocking conclusion. 

This was a great little book – perfect for the time of year.  (8.5/10) I bought this.
pub by Profile Books, Sept 2010, 167 pages.

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To order books from Amazon.co.uk – click below:
The Small Hand
The Woman In Black

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12 thoughts on “A ghostly story for autumnal nights

  1. I have just bought this for my other half who is not a great reader, but does like Susan Hill’s ghost stories.
    He read my copy of The Woman in Black while on holiday in a mobile home in France (when junior son was 6 weeks old so we couldn’t really go out in the evening) and jumped out of his skin when one of the older kids kicked against the partition wall in their sleep and the noise reverberated around us!
    Might see if I can lock myself away and read The Small Hand before I give it to him!

  2. I brought this book also and I plan to read it this month (hopefully in one sitting) Glad you enjoyed it, I must order women in black.

  3. I love Susan Hill’s ghost stories, my all time favourite being The Woman in Black (the play is fabulous too!). I can’t resist temptation any more so I must buy this and scare myself silly over Halloween with Susan Hill and M R James. :-)

  4. I read some MR James short stories a while ago and some of them are seriously creepy!
    I think they were the basis for a series of late night ghost stories that the BBC did a few years ago which I ended up having to record and watch in broad daylight because the first one left me thoroughly unnerved!

  5. I just finished The Woman in Black and LOVED it. So I must now get this too:) Coincidentally I’ve also started on an MR James short story collection I got a year ago. Spooky!

  6. I’m not familiar with Susan Hill but this certainly seems like seasonally appropriate reading! Why is it that Autumn always seems like the right time for spooky books?

    • Something to do mists and Halloween I’d wager. You must try The Woman in Black, Steph – it’s brilliant.

  7. My first foray into Susan Hill was a disaster. My second Air and Angels (review done) was very good. Thanks for this one as its new to me.

  8. I am always scared that ghost stories might scary me too much, but Susan Hill has been praised so much that I now really want to put that fear aside and read her work.

  9. Pingback: The small hand | Susan Hated Literature

  10. I have not read any of Susan Hill’s work but am always looking for a good mystery/ghost story. I am definitely going to have to check out this one and her other ones as well. By the way, the cover art is beautiful too, gives you a spooky, eerie feeling. Thanks for posting this review!

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