62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2009
Susan Hill wrote one of my favourite `ghost stories' and in fact one of my favourite novels The Woman in Black a book that I recommend to anyone and everyone. So after quite a while since her last ghost story Mist in the Mirror now here is The Man in the Picture and I read it in one go, I simply devoured the whole thing. I did wait until it was dark and the curtains were drawn just to get the perfect atmosphere. You can't read a ghost story in daylight or on the tube, it doesn't work.
The tale is told on a winters night before the fire (a perfect time and place to read this book if you can) Theo a Cambridge don, is telling his former student Oliver the strange history of the picture that he has on his wall. What may appear to be a beautiful Venetian scene of partying and masks in the street has much deeper secrets and scares in its frame. Poor Oliver is unaware that having been told the tale it will change everything for him and soon the painting will be taking its effect on his own life. This painting is no ordinary painting for it has the power not only to imitate life but also to take it, forever. And the reason it does this? Well without giving anything away its revenge, simple bitter revenge. Revenge for what or whom you will have to read to find out.
Susan Hill is a superb writer who can turn her hand to anything; her crime novels are wonderful, it is however her ghost stories that I love the most. The way she sets the scene so simplistically and builds the tension so easily before you know it your spine is tingling and the hairs on your back and neck are rising. They have that gothic or Victorian feel to them that harks back to the classic era of ghost telling. Sadly I didn't have a fire as I would have given anything for the sound and warmth of wood crackling while I was turning the pages and getting the chills.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2008
The "Man in the Picture" is a novella that concerns a Cambridge student who visits his professor and old friend at the university. In the course of the meeting, the two discuss a painting of a Venetian ball the old man bought many years ago, the terrible secrets it keeps and the inevitable consequences for those who discover who is the man in the picture...
A clever ghost story, "The Man in the Picture" may be short, but Susan Hill, having already shown her expertise in the format with "The Woman in Black" and "The Mist in the Mirror," delivers a finely-tuned, masterfully constructed supernatural mystery. A sense of dread permeates every page and the unrelenting pace will leave you breathless right up until the horribly disquieting finale. Hill reaffirms her position as a peerless exponent of a neglected genre with this elegant masterpiece.
Excellent and highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2011
It's pretty hard to write a review of a Susan Hill ghost story without mentioning "The Woman in Black," so I'm not going to compare it against "The Man In The Picture" as I feel it stands up on its own.
The story follows a former Cambridge student Oliver as he visits his old tutor Theo. Only Theo is a changed man after discovering a rare and mysterious painting of a Venetian carnival. A painting whose tale is even more sinister than the surreal, disturbing figures populating the image. As the night draws to a close Oliver realises that there may be more to the old man's tale than his skeptial mind first thought...
If I'm honest I've read three ghost stories by Susan Hill now, and I've always found the basic premise to be a bit clichéd. A spooky old lady, a creepy childlike presence, a haunted picture. It's all stuff that Edgar Allen Poe and other horror writers have been doing for decades. But Susan Hill has a similar writing style of the old masters of Gothic Horror such as the aformentioned Poe, Shelley and Stoker. The scenes are beautifully described, the pace and hightened tension never really drop, and above all else "The Man in the Picture" genuinely sends a shiver down the spine. I personally prefer a "Dark, stormy night" over somebody being snuffed out every five minutes any day. Hill certainly gets the imagination going.
If I could find fault with TMITP, it's that most of the scary set-pieces (any time when the White Lady shows up) are repeated and there isn't much variation on the scares. In a longer book this would be inexcusable so it's a good job the page count is low. It also unfortunately makes the ending very predictable, something Hill is guilty of in other books. But due to the amazing storytelling, it's the getting there that counts.
In fact this would probably have gotten four stars had I not read this in an isolated lodge/B&B on a dark, foggy, windswept week in Cornwall. On one particular night after an extended reading I had the most horriffic nightmare; similar to what I'd been reading as I was nodding off. I don't spook easily so I must tip my hat to Susan Hill as I was visibly shaken the following day.
For anyone thinking of buying this book, I'd recommend reading it under similar conditions to get the most out of it. You'll be glad you did.
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2007
I read this after listening to a review on Radio 5. The reviewers indicated the novella was heart-stoppingly chilling and a good old fashioned ghost story. I love a good ghost story; so much more chilling than the gore of today that occupies the horror genre.
The book is well written and would benefit from being read on a misty winter or autumn evening in front of a roaring fire, with the house to yourself, the phone turned off and the gurantee of no disturbances.
I read it in an hour, so it kept my attention, always a good sign.
It loses stars for me as it had zero chill factor; never once did I look over my shoulder; never once has it kept me awake, not once have I thought about the content of the novella since.
It should pull on everyones fears... the eyes in certain pictures that appear to follow you round the room, but it failed for me to connect. I came away from this thinking that Hill could write better, so today I have started reading the Women in Black to see if that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
Worth a read, but really not spine tingling.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2008
I am a great admirer of Susan Hill's work, and this short novella is as stylishly written as her other work; sadly, though, it doesn't fully measure up to her great chiller "The Woman in Black", or indeed its splendid companion "The Mist in the Mirror". This new story has many elements in common with the earlier works, but its creepy atmosphere isn't sustained so expertly. To be honest, "Man in the Picture" feels a little re-heated, notwithstanding the author's characteristically excellent writing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A vengeful woman yet again - but less convincingly than in her classic novel The "Woman in Black" - wrecks havoc on those unfortunate enough to come in contact with her in Susan Hill's short and somewhat pedestrian novella. Heavily influenced by M.R.James and set in a Cambridge college , a remote country mansion, and carnival time in Venice, this Chinese box of interwoven stories just about holds the readers interest and is fairly atmospheric too. However, despite the inclusion of a demonic painting that apparently captures the souls, or at least the image of the fate of several victims, and the apparition of some man - who is never identified - at the window of a deserted college bedroom - the tale doesn't really deliver the thrills, chills and originality required to take the story out of the run of the mill category of generic ghostly tales. The denouement is just a little flat too and one can't help worrying that Ms. Hill is stuck on a commercial treadmill that requires regular novels and novellas in order to pay the bills. Never mind the quality just see the rising bank account. Still it's all perfectly adequate but I suspect would never have been published if it had not been written by someone with Ms Hill's reputation.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2008
I have always seen Hill as a fantastic writer her prose are beautifully written, the ambience of her novels is fantastic. One of her fortais is ghost stories. I used woman in black for my GCSEs and it has made me become a real fan of her work. The man in the picture starts off well, and, she uses her wonderful skills in building up a great premise for the story, unfortunatly, the reverance of the woman in black appears to be overlooking this story a great deal and it does have tones of it embedded in this novel. I wont reveal the ending but it is simmilar to the woman in black. Not that its a bad thing as it is a great ghost story, but what could have been a great idea has not fully been taken with this project. I would say give it a go though as it is well written, the characters are well formed and if your a Hill fan you will enjoy it.
on 14 February 2015
Woop woop! Book Club Alert!
A couple of years back, a friend of mine started up a book club. She had noticed that Amazon's algorithms - the ones where they flash up `because you bought books A, B and C, you might also like books X, Y and Z' - were funnelling her down such a narrow path that she was soon going to be in danger of reading the same book over and over for the rest of her life. Hence, the book club. The idea is that once a month we all read something that a huge corporation hasn't pre-decided for us, like in some weird, literary future dystopia (hmm, good idea for a book...).
So this month, someone decided on The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill. I don't really do horror books. At all. I figure there are enough scary things in the world without being additionally terrified by the book I'm reading.
The Man in the Picture is narrated by Oliver, a Cambridge alumni who returns to his old college to see a tutor of his who is elderly and in ill health. The scene is set nice and creepily on a cold January evening with the fire roaring in the hearth and Oliver's tutor starts to tell the story of a painting he has in his possession, a Venetian carnival scene. When Oliver inspects the picture closely, he notices some out of place characters. He thinks this is odd, but as his tutor recounts the history of the painting, Oliver realises the strangest part is yet to come...
The Man in the Picture was okay. Only okay. The writing was good and the plot was creepy enough to spooky me out, but not so creepy that I lost sleep. The problem I had with it was all the unanswered questions I had at the end. Who was the man illuminated in Theo's window? If the woman in white was the jilted fiancée, then how was it she was in Venice when she was supposed to have died decades ago? Was she a ghost? Possessed by a demon? Why did the woman in white target Oliver instead of Theo? It felt like the book finished too quickly. Maybe it was the author's intention to keep us guessing and frustrate us with unsolved clues, but it actually ended up annoying me.
Susan Hill also wrote The Woman in Black, and I'd be tempted to give it a go purely based on the strength of her writing, but unfortunately the plot holes in the Man in the Picture were too much for me to ignore.
on 20 April 2014
Having previously read ( and thoroughly enjoyed) ' The Woman in Black' ( 5 stars) I was eager to find out if I would be pleased by this book .
I wasn't disappointed !
The two books share several of the same positive virtues . Both are easy to engage with from the off .Both are written in a style that creates both atmosphere and intrigue .This book is also a short novel (145 pages) and in common with 'The Woman in Black' it is thankfully devoid of any unnecessary salaciousness and swearing . Also the print size , spacing and layout make for a trouble free ( no eye strain required) reading experience.
Initially I had felt slightly bewildered and a little confused right at the very end of the story on my first reading of the book . Did I miss something ? This concern , however, doesn't detract too much from the fact that I had so much pleasure reading the book prior to this point .I recently decided to re-read the novel for a second time and I actually enjoyed it more second time around .I also read more of Susan Hill's ghost stories between my two readings of 'The Man in the Picture'.
Susan Hill has proven to be one of my favourite authors and as well as 'Dolly' and 'The Woman in Black' I can also recommend 'The Man in the Picture' for readers who appreciate atmospheric ghost stories written in a classic style . I am looking forward to reading more of her ghost themed novels and I have ordered 'The Small Hand' .Susan has shown herself to be a quality writer who we can confidently trust to deliver the goods !
on 21 November 2013
This is an interesting story which is easily read and paints a lovely evocative portrait of Venice. I much enjoyed reading it, but I have got a couple of issues with it. (1) Susan Hill always writes the same types of ghost stories - it's as if a ghost story cannot function unless it is set in an olde worlde setting which harks back to Cambridge dons in their comfortable rooms surrounded by whiskey and in front of a warm fire with the fogs of the fens drifting around outside the latticed windows. I agree that this setting makes for a good ghost story, but surely there's something else that can add the chills? All of these ghost stories are starting to read as if they have the same narrative voice, despite being spoken by a diverse range of characters. (2) I agree with another Amazon reviewer - the revelation that Oliver has a fiancee he intends to marry feels "tacked on". The ending reads a little hurried as if we were making up word count at the end. (3) Probably nobody knows the Gothic genre like Hill, and this story really reminded me of Charlotte Dacre's early 19th Century gothic novel, Zofloya. The Venetian setting and the abandoned and vengeful haughty lover was really redolent of characters and settings within Zofloya. The story isn't exactly the same, but it is very reminiscent of it. These three points aside, and the last isn't even intended as a criticism as lots of novels owe a debt of inspiration to other earlier works, this is a very enjoyable story to read. At 77 pence on Kindle, it's definitely good value.