Susan Hill, ghost story author = Mab, excited reader.
I love The Woman in Black, in all it's representations. It's such a "classic" modern ghost story. It's got all the right elements, in all the right places. Scares, story and sentiment. The Small Hand, sadly, didn't quite live up to it's greatness, but it was everything a ghost story should be.
Adam is a man who helps rare book collectors acquire their conquests. While on his way back from meeting his favourite client he takes a wrong turn on a country lane and encounters The White House, looking for someone to ask for directions. Dilapidated and set in acres of overgrown garden, The White House stands forgotten - or so Adam thinks, as he explores beyond the gate, until the ghost of a child's hand holds his own.
Adam becomes obsessed with the house and the hand, until he begins to get the urge to throw himself into deep water, or over cliffs... Much like his brother Hugo once did before him.
This ghost story is packed with intense moments, great descriptions and intriguing characters. I enjoyed the settings both in the UK and in France, and the "unexplained" parts of the tale were clever and didn't feel like cop outs (mostly... more on that in a sec!)
The Small Hand is part of a set of novellas, and I feel the story worked well in the shorter format. The action was well paced and the narrative was simple but effective.
But! Yes, I'm always weighing up the "buts", sorry!
But... I felt the writing itself was a little confusing. I found myself asking more than once whether the story was a retelling of events from the narrator, or whether the action was currently happening. I also wasn't sure of the time period at a number of points. At the beginning of the book I considered it to be the early 1900-esque era of The Woman In Black, but later we are introduced to the existence of e-mail and voicemail. It was these facts that held The Small Hand back from being as affecting as The Woman In Black, in my opinion.
Another small (very small!) gripe I had with the book was that Hugo's motives for his "act" as a boy were never told. It brought a bit of a plot-hole to his character, which until then had been very intriguing. Bit of a shame.
I would recommend The Small Hand to lovers of ghost stories, but to newbies to Susan Hill, I would suggest starting with The Woman in Black.
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The Small Hand - Review
Emma is a designer living in Bristol, UK. A self-confessed stationery addict, book lover and TV sci-fi geek, she enjoys sketching zombie-eyed women and finding her next source of inspiration in the pages on the bookshelf.