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The Small Hand by Susan Hill (2010)

2010s (3)
Ghosts (67)

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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Adam Snow, a dealer in antiquarian books, gets lost in the Sussex countryside after a meeting with a client. Driving around to try to get back to the main road, he happens across an abandoned Edwardian house with an overgrown garden. Intrigued, he goes closer, when suddenly he feels a small hand being folded into his own; needless to say, there isn't a child visible anywhere. But this isn't the only time he encounters the ghost child, and subsequent meetings will not feel as peaceful ...

After four fairly disappointing reads by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black of course excepted, I held out high hopes for this novella: a derelict house with nature reclaiming the once beautiful and tended garden, and a ghost child that makes contact by taking hold of the main protagonist's hand – how intriguing, I thought. Unfortunately the author gets bogged down in details and pursues a subplot about Adam Snow hunting for a Shakespeare First Folio in the remote mountains in France, and thereby neglects to create an atmosphere suitable to the ghost story medium. The truth is that the story was boring, and the main character's insistence that everything he had experienced was real only fuelled my feeling that it was anything but. Though the scenes at the house and in the garden were atmospheric enough, they gave but a glimpse of what would have been possible in the hands of a more skilled writer, and the anticipation of a neat twist at the end of the tale didn't get fulfilled. My feeling after finishing the book was that a lot of threads didn't come together to be knitted together into a cohesive piece of fiction, and a few ideas just didn't make sense at all to me. Disappointing. ( )
2 vote passion4reading | Sep 11, 2016 |
An interesting but not terrifying modern ghost story. ( )
  thejohnsmith | May 25, 2016 |
The Small Hand

Adam Snow, antiquarian book dealer, is returning to London following a business call.
In attempting to correct the car to the main route, he loses his way.
The atmosphere becomes eerie as he finds himself confronting a neglected Edwardian home.
"As he approaches the door, he is startled to feel the unmistakable sensation of a small, cold hand creeping into his own."
His puzzlement lays the groundwork for a series of strange happenings.
The memory of the small hand never quite leaves him.

The traditional English ghost story is alive and well!
Although there a few indications that the story is sent in the present, the feel is timeless.
The psychological horror feels gothic, vintage.
The novel's tension builds slowly and a fine ghost story emerges without sex, gore or wide spread violence.

It's an unsettling tale and quite frankly it's creepy, as the intentions of the child spirit unfold.
I thought it made a good Halloween read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 31, 2016 |
Adam Snow specializes in acquiring rare, expensive books for wealthy clients. This takes him to a remote French monastery to obtain a Shakespeare First Folio.

However, all is not well with Snow - he stumbled upon an old, derelict house and garden and felt the pressure of a small hand in his, and has ever-after been haunted by this hand-holding spectre, which sometimes tries to push him into bodies of water.

The Small Hand is rather beautifully written, with some inspired bits of description. The English countryside, Oxford, and the remote French monastery were fascinating settings. I actually found Snow’s job fascinating, yet I was annoyed when it got in the way of the supernatural story elements because this is a ghost story, isn’t it? I’m here for the ghosts.

And that’s the problem. As a ghost story, I have to say, this didn’t work for me. I found the supernatural elements incredibly boring. The ghost holds his hand . . . . so?

Snow doesn’t even try very hard to unravel the mystery of this thing that’s tormenting him, he’s rather uninvested in it, except for when he’s repeatedly insisting to you, the reader, that it was real which got to the point where I was rolling my eyes and the whole thing started to feel a whole lot less real.

Also, is Adam Snow duller than dirt, or what? How could it take him so long to deduce who the old woman at the house was, or who the third boy in the photograph was? I mean, really, Adam - you’re first, immediate, gut reaction wasn’t that they were the ghosts?! That didn’t even cross your mind?! Despite you being haunted this whole time and coming to this place to investigate it? What? What is wrong with you?

This book is simply not scary or even creepy. The characters were so barely drawn that it’s hard to feel anything about any of them, so I didn’t really care at all when the mystery resolved itself in the obvious way that it was going to. Actually, the only time when I felt any suspense was when I thought the ghost might do something to damage the Shakespeare First Folio (not that it did.) ( )
  catfantastic | Jul 16, 2015 |
I really enjoy Susan Hill's ghost stories. The magical thing about her work is that it is not new. She is able to work within the prescribed limits of the "ghost story" and still -- though you KNOW what will eventually happen--make you shiver. ( )
  Kelley.Logan | Jan 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Veteran author Susan Hill established herself as a mistress of the ghost story with The Woman In Black, although this - like the more recent The Man In The Picture - is shorter, a novella really, one-dimensional and shorn of any sub-plot. It proves intriguing rather than chilling, although some may find the end guessable well before they get there.

Nevertheless, it’s hugely enjoyable and a perfect read for a couple of hours by the ­fireside on a dark winter’s evening, and would make an ideal Christmas stocking filler.
added by Nickelini | editDaily Mail, John Harding (Oct 7, 2010)
Ultimately, this is a wonderful piece of storytelling that does what a good story ought to do: it keeps you guessing, pulls you in. And when the climax comes, the explanation and the source of the haunting are not what you think at all. You really don't see it coming.
added by Nickelini | editthe Guardian, Jeremy Dyson (Sep 25, 2010)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Hillprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cameron, StewartNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Robert, cher ami pour beacoup d’années,
for so many things
Et aussi pour sa Claudine
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It was a little before nine o'clock, the sun was setting into a bank of smoky violet cloud, and I had lost my way.
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Haiku summary
A ghostly small hand
terrorises Adam Snow.
Can he resist it?

No descriptions found.

A chilling ghost story about a man who experiences a small hand creeping into his own as if a child has taken hold of it. He soon finds himself plagued by nightmares, panic attacks and more visits from the increasingly sinister small hand.

(summary from another edition)

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