The Small Hand by Susan Hill

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The Small Hand by Susan Hill

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A chilling little tale, beautifully told.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Profile Books
ISBN: 978-1846682360

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Adam Snow, an antiquarian book dealer, accidentally finds himself within the grounds of a derelict house hidden away in the countryside. As he is walking around the lost garden he feels an invisible hand creep into his own. Drawn into investigating the history of the house, and whose hand it might be, he finds himself suffering from panic attacks as well as feeling the small hand again, in different locations, each time pulling him closer and closer to danger.

This was a timeless novel, that could easily have been set in an earlier century were it not for the brief mention of email at one point. The style felt, to me, a lot like Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, and that sat well with its tone as a ghost story. There's a slow but steady pace to the plot, with a rise in tension as Adam deals with each supernatural encounter but then it relaxes again as he goes back to his normal day to day life and tries to forget so you are lulled and haunted throughout the tale.

I spent the first few pages of the story thinking I was reading about a woman - perhaps because it's told in the first person and I just naturally thought of myself as I read, so I was a little surprised when it turned out to be a man! I think a woman would have investigated things much faster to be honest, and I occasionally felt frustrated with Adam Snow when it seemed like he was postponing finding out the truth and off he'd go, back to hunt out another ancient book for someone rather than get straight to the bottom of the mystery! The first person narrative helps with the creepiness of the story however, making it more direct to the reader, so you feel like it's happening to you.

I did guess a little of what was to come at the end, but I didn't feel that this spoilt it at all. For me the joy in this story was in the way it was told. There are little descriptive phrases that are just lovely - evocative and clever - and it was lovely to read a novella, a story that worked in this shorter format and would have been ruined had it been stretched into a longer length novel or squashed into a short story collection. It is a lovely little book, the sort you'd be happy to keep on your shelf, ready to share with any guests who fancy something short to read before bedtime.

I personally didn't find it very scary. It was chilling, but I think I would have been quite happy reading it late at night, by myself. Unless it was thundering maybe, and there was a power cut, and I was reading by candlelight! I don't usually get very scared by books - movies, yes - but although many books creep under my skin and have me weeping over fictional characters, I'm not usually frightened. Well, except for when I read Salem's Lot by Stephen King. That left me with a huge fear of vampires, terrifying nightmares and I couldn't go anywhere near my bedroom window for weeks... Anyway, although this didn't frighten me I'm sure other readers will be satisfyingly creeped out by the story. And actually, the next time I'm standing by the fountain in our local park I might keep my hands in my pockets. Just in case.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For another scary ghost story try The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

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Buy The Small Hand by Susan Hill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Small Hand by Susan Hill at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Small Hand by Susan Hill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Small Hand by Susan Hill at


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