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The Small Hand by Susan Hill

January 9, 2011


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…


This is the first book I’ve ever read by Susan Hill and I somehow doubt it will be my last. I was taken in by the gorgeous cover of this book and I was not disappointed with the contents! It is only 176 pages long but for such a small book, Susan Hill makes every word count. It is almost as though she thought for some time about each and every word on the page because the atmosphere that her poetic prose builds is very chilling indeed. It is not so much the ghost that scared me, but more the atmosphere and the suspense seeping through the pages.

I was pleasently surprised that this story didn’t just focus on the ghost but also other little parts of Adam Snow’s life – his life as an antiquarian bookseller definitely brought more substance to the novel and made for an interesting read. The inclusion of a first person narrative also meant that you felt everything Adam felt – you could almost feel the hand of the ghost inside your own.

There isn’t a great deal to say about this novel due to it’s length and fairly simple story but it is well worth reading. Susan Hill’s writing seems to be in a whole other class compared to most authors these days and I really was blown away by her talents of not only making such a small novel into such a delightful read, but also for chilling me to my very bones through her careful control and consideration of every word used. I only wish I had the skills to be able to write as well as Hill.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2011 14:37

    I’ve been meaning to read this for a while since it was recommended by a bookseller in my local Waterstones. He pointed it out when I was buying Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (also worth a read). I’ll pick it up next time I’m in Waterstones 🙂

    • February 17, 2011 18:35

      It is definitely worth a read! I think the phrase is probably ‘perfectly formed’. It’s a very small book but packed with a brilliant, chilling story! I’ve also read & reviewed Dark Matter (will be listed under adult reviews on my blog) but I much prefer The Small Hand actually. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  2. Justine permalink
    May 24, 2011 11:06

    I know this book has had a lot of good press and I think the lovely cover design and size of the book itself is charming, but I found the book a bit slow for me. I was expecting something quite chilling but it seemed a bit “young” or innocent to me. At least it is quite succinct and I did finish it so it can’t have been that bad I guess!


  1. January Summary « Book Monkey

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