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The Small Hand: A Ghost Story Paperback – 2 Sep 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 167 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; 1st edition (2 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846682363
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846682360
  • Product Dimensions: 12 x 2.1 x 18.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 223,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description


Superior chills from the author of The Woman in Black (Woman & Home)

A distinguished modern exponent of the genre ... The entire narrative unrolls like a carpet ... This beautifully written novel may be short, but not one word is wasted ... The sinister child, the rotting mansion, the monastery and the old books are of course familiar gothic props; but Susan Hill uses them to lend depth, as an expert cook uses familiar ingredients to enrich a new recipe, and draws out new flavours from them in the process ... highly recommended for a chilly autumn evening by the fire. And, as a bonus, the book has an exceptionally attractive cover (Spectator)

On chilling form (Vogue)

She builds suspense through easy, elegant prose ... If the proof of a good ghost story is a bad dream, this one worked for me (Intelligent Life)

On top form (Good Housekeeping)

Beautifully evoked ... what's most impressive is what hangs between the spare lines of Hill's precise prose ... this is a wonderful piece of storytelling that does what a good story ought to do: it keeps you guessing, pulls you in (Jeremy Dyson Guardian 2010-09-25)

Every bit the treat one would expect ... as ever, not a word is wasted. As seductive as it is disquieting, atmospheric and brilliantly suspenseful (The Lady 2010-09-21)

Short and crisply told ... The tension is built up gradually until it is taut and physical (Independent)

Part of the fear she conjures up, then, is a sense that this could happen to anyone ... Hill's superbly crafted tale doesn't belong to a confessional age, but it does belong to an age where we are all striving for our own identity. Where we all, secretly, long for a ghost to reach out and grip us, make us real (Lesley MacDowell Scotsman 2010-10-25)

Precise and stylish (Big Issue)

Classic (Mail on Sunday)

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 (Daily Mail)

Great ghostly reading leading up to Halloween (Woman's Day Australia 2010-10-25)

Masterfully done ... subtle, elegant (The Times 2010-10-16)

A beautiful volume housing a chilling take on the good old-fashioned ghost story (Red)

Restrained, spare, elegant prose with all the necessary accoutrements ... most definitely suited to reading beside a roaring fire while fingering the thick cream pages of this well-produced hardback (Sophia Martelli Observer 2010-10-31)

Susan Hill is the grande dame of English supernatural fiction ... The Small Hand is another brilliant exercise in the uncanny ... Hill is a mistress of economy and timing, and although The Small Hand is only the length of a novella, it has the heft of a novel. Each phrase comes balanced on a raft of implication ... an elegant entertainment for a winter's night (Suzi Feay Financial Times 2010-10-30)

Hill writes with an understated style that gives the story plenty of conviction and although it is set in the present day, a dusty, timeless pall lies over it (Charlotte Heathcote Sunday Express 2010-10-31)

Gripping from the first page (Waterstone's Books Quarterly)

Wonderfully old fashioned ... Hill is a master of the art of suspense, subtly increasing the creepiness until it is at fever pitch. Eerie and compelling from start to finish (Attitude)

No one chills the heart like Susan Hill (Daily Telegraph 2010-10-29)

Hill knows how to give readers a good fright (Instyle Magazine, Australia 2010-12-01)

A chilling and beguiling small treasure of a story (Herald on Sunday, NZ 2010-10-31)

This supernatural chiller is gripping and unnerving, the sort of book you devour in one sitting (The Age, Australia 2010-10-30)

Beautiful (Sydney Morning Herald 2010-11-13)

A chilling meditation on how long-buried secrets can rise to haunt us, this story won't leave you in a hurry (Who Weekly Magazine, Australia 2010-11-22)

There is a thrilling building terror in this elegant but restrained ghost story (Herald Sun, Australia 2010-11-20)

A twisting psychological drama where disaster looms at every turn (Daily Telegraph, Sydney 2010-11-27)

A beautifully written, subtle tale with echoes of M R James (Country Life)

Book Description

The chilling tale of a man in the grip of a small, invisible hand ... A superlative ghost story by the author of The Woman in Black and The Man in the Picture, to be read by the fire on a cold winter's night.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

157 of 169 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads on 5 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
Adam Snow, an antiquarian book dealer, narrates the tales of his dealings in `The Small Hand' after one night journeying back from a client he decides to take the back quieter routes `through the Downs' on his commute back to London only to discover himself completely lost. Eventually he happens upon a drive way and a sign saying `garden closed' and knowing there must be some kind of large house he decides this would be the best place to find directions. The house he discovers however is in a mild state of dereliction yet it seems he is not alone for as he turns back to the car a small hand takes hold of his only no one is with him.

After his first bemusement to what takes place and dismissal as his imagination due to the atmosphere things start to take a turn for the more sinister when Adam starts to become gripped by fear for no apparent reason. Initially thinking this must be some kind of series of panic attacks he becomes more concerned when on a trip abroad he starts to see things and a presence seems to be dragging him closer and closer to danger when ever it can find opportunity. I shall leave it there because if I give any more away I would say too much and part of the joy of this book, and the chilling factors too, is the fact that things happen when you aren't expecting them too and there is an interesting back story and good few twists that all add to the experience it wouldn't do to ruin.

You might have guessed but I did really enjoy this book. I curled up with it on a Saturday evening when it had gone dark and I had the house all to myself. I can report that it had the desired effect too as the random house noises I don't normally notice started to make me jump.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael Finn on 5 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Susan Hill's new ghost story is a subtle and insidious melancholy tale about a book collector who on discovering a lonely house feels a ghostly small hand slip into his own. From a strangely subdued beginning Hill weaves a clever story that hides deeper fears and anxieties behind the trappings of the ghost story. Fear of insanity, incipient madness waiting on the edges of our perceptions like a dark spider, can be far more terrifying than fear of the supernatural. What Hill does here is to blur the lines between the two, and even though this book won't have you nervously inspecting the darkest corners of the room, or even make you shiver with disquiet, it is a finely drawn story that subtly engenders introspection. The gaps in our knowledge of the working's of the mind and the question of the unexplained, the supernatural are all topics that can be examined but never fully brought completely into the light of human understanding. Hill impresses again by challenging the reader on many different levels rather than simply trotting out a string of strange happenings to raise a chill thrill.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By D. Harris TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
Just as the Summer fizzles out and the nights draw in, here is a chilling little ghost story for the gloomy Autumn evenings. After stumbling at random (or is it?) across a ruined country house surrounded by a garden gone wild, antiquarian book dealer Adam Snow starts to be haunted by "the small hand", which takes his and... well that would be telling, but Snow is followed, haunted and frightened.

From its chilling start to the horrific twist on the last page, this is a satisfying and timeless ghost story. Though set in the present - there are a couple of mentions of emails and easy foreign travel - it could as well have been set in 1910 or even 1810. I suppose it's the doom of any writer of ghost stories to be compared to MR James, but this survives the challenge: the book plays with the Jamesian conventions more than for example The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story (no distancing effect or story within a story) but ratchets up the atmosphere of menace nicely as Hill brings real fear into the lovingly established and comfortable life of her protagonist, about whom just enough is left mysterious (when did he see his father dead?). She really is good at these.

This would be an excellent book to buy yourself as a treat, perhaps to read as the owls hoot outside, or to give as a Christmas present. A bonus is the beautiful design, complete with embossed dust jacket - match that with an e-reader!

One question: why does it just feel fitting that a dealer in rare books be haunted? I don't know, but it does...
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Love Books VINE VOICE on 14 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this story on my new Kindle, which I think may have detracted slightly as other reviewers have mentioned the quality of the cover and presentation of the book. I can't comment on those, but as a reading experience, I was a little underwhelmed by The Small Hand.

The premise is excellent and follows in the established tradition of ghost stories. An antiquarian book dealer becomes lost one night and ends up in the 'closed' garden of a house that used to be a tourist attraction. This is where he has his first encounter with 'the small hand' and it's genuinely thrilling and very creepy.

Very soon after this though, the story becomes less traditional and more stereotypical. I guessed almost immediately why the narrator was being haunted and was hoping I'd guessed wrong, but I hadn't.

The writing is wonderful, sparse and precise. Ms Hill doesn't use a dozen words where one will do and I really admire her for this. I just feel the story, on this occasion, is a little too thin. It would have made a good short story, but stretching it out to novel-length feels wrong.

It's a beautifully written book, and you won't want to put it down.
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