The Small Hand by Susan Hill – Review

The small hand tells the Story of Adam Snow an antiquarian bookseller. One night on his way home from a visit to a client he gets lost on the way home through the country lanes. That’s when he stumbles across a crumbling, decaying old house with overgrown gardens. As he stands contemplating the sight he feels a small hand slip into his own, a child’s hand; but the child is invisible.

Firstly, what did I like about this book. As always with Hill’s books there’s plenty of descriptive writing going on and she does it well. The story provides an element of danger that grows from something so seemingly innocent and threatens to overpower the protagonist; but as it’s written in the first person we could probably guess he was going to come out of it relatively OK. There’s some interesting psychological elements going on and you are left wondering how much of Adams experience was down to ghosts and how much was the result of fear itself.

Which brings me to what didn’t work for me. I have a couple of bugbears with certain elements of the writing. It seemed as though every time Adam had a ghostly encounter he had to stop and tell us that he was sure it was real; he was sure then; he was sure later; he was sure last time. Did I mention he was sure? There also seems to be some slightly heavy foreshadowing. I don’t mind a narrator telling me that they would come to look back fondly on a certain night or afternoon, but once is enough and twice within the space of 9 pages wasn’t really necessary.

I’m not sure what to make of the conclusion. In one respect it was a fairly predictable but tidy explanation but not quite as satisfying as it could have been. I’m all for a little ambiguity in ghost stories but I was left thinking ‘right, I know what happened in the past but I don’t understand why it happened’. I wont say anymore because I’m trying to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. Of course just because it bothers me doesn’t mean it will bother someone else; I am a person who delights in detail.

Ultimately I did like this book; it had a good premise, nice descriptions, spooky houses and thunderstorms. I would just liked to have seen some elements of the story fleshed out a little.

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