A Kind Man – Susan Hill


Chatto & Windus


Hardback – 192 pages

Yes, I am most definitely a Susan Hill fan and I apologise in advance if this ends up being a gushing post verging on the let’s skip beatification and just make her a saint of storytellers right here, right now.  You’ve probably gathered by now that she’s done it again – she’s created a wonderful gem of a story whose simplicity belies a rainbow of human emotions and feelings.

Unlike my other encounters with Susan Hill’s writing, this is not a ghost story as such although there is a definite element of something supernatural at work.  Tommy Carr is the “kind man”, the man who has not so much swept Eve off her feet as gently brushed her towards him…

He had no spark.  He was steady, quiet, calm, reliable, loyal, thoughtful, gentle.  A kind man then.  But for a long time she resisted those things in favour of something he lacked and which she felt there must surely be.

Eventually Eve realises her good fortune especially when she compares and contrasts her married life with that of her sister.  However, their happiness is shortlived and tragedy strikes Eve and Tommy, leaving both of them shell shocked yet not embittered by the experience.  Then,  as stress and sadness take their physical toll, Tommy becomes seriously ill and you wonder how much more this family can take.

Susan Hill manages to fit so much into this novella, her economy of phrase and subtle touch immediately draw you into Eve and Tommy’s world.  Whilst the setting and time of the story are not evident, one would guess at somewhere industrial and bleak  in the North of England, given the lack of light and generally grim ambiance, which contributes to Tommy and Eve’s moving to the countryside where Eve blossoms and is finally happy.  It is also pre-National Health Service as the poor depend on a philanthrophic local doctor.   The prose is so simple and elegant, it really is a pleasure to read, nothing jars not even when the story becomes parable-like and mystical.   One could read much into the deeper underlying meaning, the precarious balance between good and evil, kindness and cruelty and the higher power which oversees all of humanity but one  thing is sure, Susan Hill’s hand remains firmly at the helm, wielding the literary chisel which has created this finely honed sculpture.

If you haven’t already read any of Susan Hill’s novellas, I highly recommend that you do so, especially the ghostly ones, The Woman in Black, The Small Hand, The Mist in the Mirror, The Man in the Picture.  As for me, I’m off to find a copy of The Beacon, another of her literary novellas which somehow escaped my radar until now!

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  1. stujallen says:

    I ve not read many by hill but want to read this one it seems to get good reviews from every one that reads it ,keep looking at library sure I ll see it one time ,all the best stu

  2. admin says:

    I got my copy from the library, Stu. It’s a very quick read – a great literary novella.

  3. Helen says:

    I still haven’t read anything by Susan Hill, though she’s an author I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. I’ll probably start with one of the ghost stories you recommended, but this one sounds great too.

  4. admin says:

    At least if you don’t take to her writing style you won’t have spent too much time in the process as they’re mostly novellas and are particularly enjoyable if you’ve struggled with a huge tome beforehand! Hope you enjoy when you try, Helen. :-)

  5. The Beacon was great – you should enjoy it. I actually tend to enjoy her other fiction more than her ghost stories – the other way round to most folk! Looking forward to this one.

  6. admin says:

    I just got a swap for it Annabel so I am really looking forward to it.

  7. Violet says:

    I love Susan Hill. I haven’t read this though. I like novellas, especially those that are a short, sharp, jab to the heart. Putting this on my list.

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