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Review: The Small Hand

June 18, 2011

Title: The Small Hand
Author: Susan Hill
Genre: Horror, Supernatural
Published: 2010
Pages: 167

Synopsis:

Returning home from a visit to a client late one summer’s evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow takes a wrong turning and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiosity, he approaches the door, and, standing before the entrance feels the unmistakable sensation of a small hand creeping into his own, ‘as if a child had taken hold of it’. Intrigued by the encounter, he determines to learn more, and discovers that the owner’s grandson had drowned tragically many years before. At first unperturbed by the odd experience, Snow begins to be plagued by haunting dreams, panic attacks, and more frequent visits from the small hand which become increasingly threatening and sinister …

Review:

The Small Hand is the first Susan Hill novel (or novella technically) I’ve read. I’ve been meaning to read The Woman in Black for years but haven’t got round to it. After reading The Small Hand I’m not in much of a hurry.

Unfortunately, The Small Hand is an utter disappointment. It’s not frightening nor is it even very atmospheric but that wouldn’t bother me if the story was in some way interesting. For a 167 page novella it doesn’t half drag along with a sluggish pace. It’s a very “this happened, then this happened” kind of story, events just sort of roll into one another without much thought of narrative drive. There is some but it’s very weak. There is a part where the main character, Adam Snow, travels to France to a monastery (because they have a rare copy of a Shakespeare play) and then returns. This section is seemingly there only for the supposed atmospherics the surroundings would give the story: it doesn’t work.

I wanted to like this, I really did but it came across as slight, uneventful and a waste of time. However, to end on a more positive note it was well written. Hill does have a pleasant style that, at times, can be quite evocative and evoke a good sense of place. Unfortunately, these talents were wasted on a poor story.

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