Monday, October 25, 2010

Creeped out

It's that time of the year again when we all gather around with friends and share ghost stories. It's the season to watch again our favorite scary movies and reread our beloved creepy novels and short stories. And what better way for me to start this Halloween season than to read Susan Hill's frightening ghost story, The Small Hand.

Of course, my favorite ghost story of all time will still be Hill's The Woman in Black, but The Small Hand definitely comes close. It's also a short novel (a lot of people would thus call this a novella), but it is immensely satisfying.

In this story, we meet Adam Snow, a dealer in rare books, who stumbles across a long-forgotten house called the the White House after taking a wrong turn. For reasons he can't explain, he becomes drawn into the house and suddenly feels a small hand grasp his as he enters the gate. Soon after, he experiences panic attacks and apparent hauntings. And it doesn't help that the feel of the small hand becomes more and more frequent.

True to other ghost stories of Susan Hill, the phenomenon of the small hand is linked to Adam's family, more specifically to his brother, who have been confined to a mental institution during his younger years. I won't divulge the connection though, since the twist at the end is too good to reveal in this humble review.

The Small Hand is the kind of ghost story that we all long for -- with its gothic feel, its creepy atmosphere from page 1, and its pervasive feeling of thread. Fans of The Woman in Black will find common themes in this novel and, like me, will wish for Hill to come up with more ghost stories in the future.

I'm a big fan of ghost stories, and I must admit that I don't scare easily. But reading The Small Hand made me wish for a companion in the middle of the night. Yes, it is that good.

Read this book if:
  1. You loved The Woman in Black.
  2. You're a sucker for all things Halloween.
  3. You're a true blue ghost story addict.

18 comments:

Portobello's coffee said...

I'm loving The Woman in Black! Thanks for the book!!

Peter S. said...

You're welcome, Portobello's coffee! I can't wait to hear what you think of it when you finish.

Vivienne said...

Now I could just do with a novella like this for the November Novella Challenge. I keep hearing such good things about Susan Hill.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Vivienne! Yes, this book would be perfect for your challenge!

Mrs. B. said...

I'd love to read this! Where did you buy it? Is it paperback or hardbound?

sumthinblue said...

Where is Woman in Black available, Peter?

Peter S. said...

@Mrs. B: I bought this at Fully Booked! It's a small hardbound edition.

@sumthinblue: I just bought R. a copy at Fully Booked Boni last Sunday.

MarieChrisTine said...

Stumbled upon your blog, Peter! Good timing too since I vowed myself to swear off internet at home for the meantime and use the time to finish at least one book a week. Oh, how I miss reading!I'll definitely buy some of the books you reviewed here. :P

Peter S. said...

Hey, Tin! Nice to see you here!

artseblis said...

Ah, you're bad for my soul, Peter. I just finished Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill. It was very disturbing. I don't know how this author can write so smoothly about the stuff of nightmares.

http://www.shelfari.com/books/13842873/Apartment-16

Now you're making me want to read The Small Hand. Buti na lang, kasama ko palagi si Happy sa kwarto ko.

Peter S. said...

I can lend it to you, Artseblis.

artseblis said...

Talaga? Thank you! on Nov 27 or sooner?

Peter S. said...

Soon! This Saturday? I was thinking of that Quiapo walking tour. If the invite still stands, I'd be more than willing to accept it.

Ryan G said...

Sounds like something right up my alley.

SariJ said...

I loved the Woman in Black. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I am off to see if my Library has it. I love Gothic novels and am always on the look out for a good one.

Peter S. said...

@Ryan: I know!

@SariJ: The Woman in Black is still scarier. But this one is good too!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This really sounds like one I would like Peter...would have been perfect for the RIP V challenge which just ended.

Portobello's coffee said...

I agree with you. The Woman in Black is scarier. Maybe because the antagonist in that book is more malicious. More in a state of grief.

Nevertheless, The Small Hand has an appeal of it's own. A more "innocent" ghost perhaps? Plus the fact that the ghost is more felt than seen.

I wonder why, in both books, there seems to be the common element of an elderly, male patron helping the protagonist. Perhaps referring to Susan Hill's husband?