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The Beacon [Kindle Edition]

Susan Hill
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £7.99
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Book Description

Colin. May. Frank. Berenice. The Prime children grew up in a bleak country farm house called The Beacon. Colin and Berenice married locally. May went to university in London, but came home within a year and never left again. Only Frank, quiet, watchful Frank, got away. He left for Fleet Street and a career in journalism but its the publication of a book about his childhood that brings the fame and money he craves - and tears his family apart.

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"A moving, evocative and rewarding novel" (The Times)

"A brilliantly eerie little tale...with a very adroitly handled contemporary theme: the misery memoir" (Scotland on Sunday)

"The Beacon uses a small canvas, but it examines larger issues of truth, mental health and memory... Ideas about wasted lives, about grinding exhaustion at the expense of self-expression and about rank injustice are all here in a novel of great structural and stylistic control" (Guardian)

"Magnificent...It is all done so well, so wisely, that this short book is richly is a little masterpiece" (Daily Telegraph)

"Captivating... There is, from the start, a highly charged atmosphere of anxiety and ambiguity...the suspense and mystery work perfectly, and for this Hill's economy is exactly what is needed" (Financial Times)


`This enigmatic novella tracks the full impact of Frank's book, probing notions of guilt and truth'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 256 KB
  • Print Length: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (17 Aug. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003ZDO8Z2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,992 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Susan Hill is a prize-winning novelist, having been awarded the Whitbread, Somerset Maugham and John Llewelyn Rhys awards, as well as having been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She wrote Mrs de Winter, the bestselling sequel to Rebecca, and the ghost story The Woman in Black, which was adapted for the stage and became a great success in the West End. Her books include a collection of exquisite short stories, The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read, and the highly successful crime novel series about the detective Simon Serrailler. Susan Hill lives in Gloucestershire, where she runs her own small publishing firm, Long Barn Books.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
By Reuben
Susan Hill's new novella is a dark delight; a tale infused with Gothic undertones - I was left drawing comparisons with "Wuthering Heights" (albeit obliquely). "The Beacon" itself centres on one family and how the inexplicable motives and resentment of one member, Frank, throw his siblings' understanding of themselves and their joint past into jeopardy and confusion.

The plot is tightly structured and full of suspense. It switches between past and present as the main character, May, recalls her life and that of her three siblings, Colin, Frank and Berenice, and the emotional damage each sustains from having to live with tainted memories of their childhood. It is a story of betrayal and revenge, but also of a life left unfulfilled, the untold memories and secrets that could be present in any family's past, and the human capacity to corrupt and manipulate.

The result is ambiguous and sinister, the reader being left unsure just as the characters in the story are, what is true and what "The Cupboard Under the Stairs" really signifies.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Katharine Kirby TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I heard this on Radio 4's Woman's Hour Drama I couldn't wait for each daily episode. However their treatment of this small, perfect story gave a different slant to the inherent ambiguity of the book. 'The Cupboard Under the Stairs' was given more importance, maybe for sensationalism, than in the book. The mood created by their nervy music and presentation of Frank and May's lives side by side over emphasised their parts whereas the actual book has much more to offer.

So it is truly really worth still reading The Beacon even if you have already listened to the broadcast. Susan Hill has created a taut, absorbing, tidy novella (eat your heart out Ian McEwan, for `On Chesil Beach', which for me, failed to deliver). `The Beacon' is a perfect execution of the genre.

Susan Hill has, tucked neatly into her elegant writing, the explanation you need which is only hinted at in that radio drama. In offering the clues needed to understand the story she fleshes out the characters more satisfactorily. Catching you up in her powers and transporting you to The Beacon farmhouse with ease and experience, not a word jars. Quiet country days slip by and the suffocating world of living forever in an area where everyone knows your business, or thinks they do, is exquisitely pictured. Family tensions and accommodations, the release from binding ties, all keep you reading straight through to the end.

This is the kind of book that leaves you thinking about it long after and longing to discuss it, a very clever piece of work indeed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hints of hidden memories..... 23 Jun. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A well-crafted novella that creates the atmosphere of a northern farmhouse and the somewhat dysfunctional family living there. It began well with some good characterisations and interesting plotting. An unprepared and unsupported May Prime goes off to university in London but suffers from mental problems and returns home after a year. This episode rings true - especially the way in which there seems to be no support system for May either at university or at home.

The central theme of the book is the rift in the family caused by the second son Frank. We have to wait a long time to find out the cause and when it emerges it raised some questions. If Frank had decided to break with the family why would he have taken photographs from his childhood with him? I don't want to give away the plot but surely newspaper reporters would have approached the Prime family for their side of the story....

There are ambiguities in the family and hints of hidden memories. The way in which The Beacon was written made it a gripping read but was ultimately unsatisfactory - especially the ending which was really (to me) a bit feeble.

I had intended to give The Beacon three stars but after a really interesting discussion at our reading group I have upped it to four.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deeply disappointing 4 July 2011
It starts very well and it fizzles out. The central mystery -- the theme of the book -- is the impact on his family of a dishonest book produced by the youngest child, Frank. At the end, I thought: Well, so what? Why have I just wasted my time reading this book? Thank God it was so short.

Frankly, I don't believe the author put anything like enough effort into writing it. It often feels like a first draft, and there's one glaring clash of Point of View that reinforces that view -- I can't believe she'd have left it in if she'd edited the book properly. I was deeply disappointed at the end. Good character studies and perfect word choice are simply not enough if the story has not been worked through. I'm giving it two stars; the second is because I feel generous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The pull of the past 9 April 2013
The remote farmhouse is home to the Prime family over several generations. The four children of the current generation all leave at some point and this novella is the story mostly of the two, Frank and May, who return to the aptly named Beacon.
The farming life of their parents, John and Bertha, is a hard one and as they age time seems to pass the family by and the isolation increases for those who remain.
The setting is an upland somewhere in the North of England; the prose is very sparse and the dialogue terse and mostly workaday. This strengthens the impression of a family who love each other but are too busy or tired to express themselves much.
The story follows May and her struggle to find an identity and pathway for her life, yet one senses that Frank, who remains hidden in the background saying almost nothing, will be the key to the unfolding of the story.
Yet the characterisation of Frank is probably the least satisfactory of all the family. From being almost mute he becomes a garrulous news reporter in London and marries a lady of German descent. From being a surveyor he suddenly dashes off a book that will change their lives forever but his rationale for this remains unclear.
The story mostly concerns the strength that the pull of the past can have when individuals feel unfulfilled and in this portrayal it is successful.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by Kenneth G Ferguson
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 9 months ago by SANDRA MCCULLAGH
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Enjoyable read.
Published 13 months ago by Mrs C E Bowe
2.0 out of 5 stars The Beacon
Started off quite intriguing but lost the plot I think and became a bit silly.I didn't like the ending at all.
Published 14 months ago by Judy Pryce
1.0 out of 5 stars The Beacon
This kindle book has faulty links from one page to another so it doesn't read fluently.Disappointing! Would like Amazon to reply.
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortlessly expert story-telling
At least she makes it seem effortless. Intriguing characters, clever plot and superbly-drawn setting, all with a depth of human understanding typical of this author. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Fred Everett
3.0 out of 5 stars 90% good
a really good read. as always Susan hill really understands people & human nature.
did not like the ending ? felt incomplete
Published 20 months ago by Daisy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story
Once I started reading I couldn't put the book down. Great story of a troubled family set in the countryside on a farm.
Published on 24 Aug. 2013 by Honeybun
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the anecdote about Patricia Hogg
I really enjoyed the anecdote from May's life about her school friend Patricia Hogg who inexplicably shunned her when she went to stay with her family for the weekend. Read more
Published on 5 May 2013 by Mot Juste
5.0 out of 5 stars Susan Hill
Susan Hill can do no wrong wrong as far as I'm concerned such a wide range of subjects each in it's own style. Yes every egg a bird ( sorry ) !
Published on 21 April 2013 by Mr. P. J. Gardiner
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