A Kind Man by Susan Hill
|A Kind Man by Susan Hill|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A fascinating short novel about a man with a lucky gift, and his wife, who suffers ups and downs in life a bit more severely.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: January 2012|
Meet Eve, and her husband, the title character, Tommy. She's at a bit of a sticky wicket in life, for however much they want a baby, her sister and his feckless husband churn out son after son after son, and go no lengths at all to love them. So when Eve and Tommy do at last have a child, it's a tragedy for it to die when only three years old. But in this plot, which you'll thank me for not going into further, there will be a lot more swings and roundabouts, of torment and ecstasy, doldrums and delights, hell and heaven, to come.
I'm giving little away, for I certainly guessed what the errand over the hill was that Eve takes religiously three times a year. (Their home is one of six rustic cottages on the edge of an industrial town, with a glowing peak of landscape the focus point for miles around.) The child's death is an earlyish beat in the story. What follows it is a slightly peculiar, yet fascinating and quite dazzling little plot of strange happenings. If you're thinking we're in the realm of rural saga, of romance or domestic strife, think again.
Susan Hill uses a style that is quite notable too. It's sort of a clipped, officious approach, that makes us aware this is a period piece, even if we never get told what period we're in. She slips just once and brings in a record player - certainly we're pre-TV ownership, and we seem to be in the west Midlands in the 1930s, perhaps. I could be way out in both time and space though. But that style, again - because it is less adorned than it could be, it marries to the plot to have what is not so much magical realism as magical matter-of-factuality.
The actuality in that bodge of a word shows we're in the real world, for her characters are so well evoked. Whatever happens here happens to real people. The dialogue is sprightly but realistic, and everything about the book conspires to make it a very enjoyable, intriguing short novel. It shows a craft to put the slightly unusual in such familiar, realistic surrounds - not so much so as in her most famous work, The Woman in Black, but with almost as much quality.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
For more realistically odd rural happenings, I can't recommend Blackmoor by Edward Hogan enough.
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You can read more book reviews or buy A Kind Man by Susan Hill at Amazon.com.
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