Ghosts are, as a rule, conservative creatures that do not tend to wander much beyond their favoured haunts. That they are also, at least in literature and the traditional ghost story, bound to return to our plane with some form of purpose, to re-enact some past trauma, or to seek retribution, or some form of restitution, is a given. On occasion, however, the ghost may venture further abroad, and such is the case in this tale, where the protagonist finds that a certain presence manifests itself at a far remove from where it was originally encountered.
In this novella, Hill leads us on an excursion into the contemporary gothic, where secrets, the supernatural, and psychological repression converge within the confines of an idyllic English country garden. It is a literary tale with a literary theme, where an antiquarian book dealer’s quest for a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio becomes entwined with a deep self-questioning and sense of doubt, arising from a sequence of vivid impressions that he is unable to explain with any rational lucidity. The chill follows the protagonist from the Downs to loftier heights amidst the mountains of France, where a monastic setting provides an additional soupçon of the gothic. There may be others who possess an insight into the state in which he finds himself, but any such revelations you must discover for yourself.
This is an enjoyable read that I found more to my taste than Hill’s Printer’s Devil Court. Rather than focusing upon ‘jump scares’, as seems to be much the fashion these days, this novella focused upon creating a general ambience of unease, which is a technique that I, personally, find far more satisfying.
The Small Hand by Susan Hill may be previewed and purchased by clicking here.