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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives of quiet desperation
A Bit of Singing and Dancing.

This collection of short stories is a masterful evocation of people who are living lives of quiet desperation. Set in a timeless and usually anonymous world, these stories evoke the quiet tragedy and true horror of life.

In some of the stories a death has occurred before the story begins and is referred to in a...
Published on 21 May 2001 by raymond denvir

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed. This compilation of short stories did not turn ...
Was v. disappointed. This compilation of short stories did not turn out to be as good as I expected from this author. Maybe I'm missing something but these are not my sort of stories at all.
Published 13 days ago by LM


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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives of quiet desperation, 21 May 2001
By 
raymond denvir (downpatrick, county down Ireland) - See all my reviews
A Bit of Singing and Dancing.

This collection of short stories is a masterful evocation of people who are living lives of quiet desperation. Set in a timeless and usually anonymous world, these stories evoke the quiet tragedy and true horror of life.

In some of the stories a death has occurred before the story begins and is referred to in a flashback of memory (as in 'Missie', 'The Custodian' and 'A Bit of Singing and Dancing): in the rest it happens as part of the main plot.

Susan Hill reminds us through this that no one can avoid death and that it is often violent, unfair and unexpected. It seems, at times, that her characters are set against impossible odds. Happiness is fleeting and somehow more alluring and extraordinary because it is so rare.

Sometimes, as in 'The Custodian' and 'A Bit of Singing and Dancing' joy comes because of another's death, but more frequently it is cut short by it. The reader is often given the feeling that the world's timing is cruel as circumstances merge together to make the characters feel fated. Col in 'The Badness Within Him' dares to feel hatred and Fate punishes him for it, as it does Miss Bartlett in 'How Soon Can Leave" who dares to seek independence.

In many of the stories at least one character, generally a misfit, is made larger than life by being placed under close scrutiny. The character is usually a child or an adult that is 'not quite right' due to some physical or mental handicap or someone who is trapped. In each story these distressed gentlefolk are attempting to justify life or are trying to escape from smothering commitments. Sometimes they do escape but at a great cost;in other stories they do not and are left in the quiet despair of an unfulfilled life.

Some have said that these stories are depressing but although sad, invariably the characters shown fortitude and the strength to go on or to break free of the prison; they have made for themselves. They face death or the continuity of a melancholic life, not in a fearful, petulant manner but with stoicism and resolve.

Terence Halliday's ordinary charting of his meetings with a friend through his first person narration in 'Ossie' points up the extraordinary and developing character of Ossie Lawton. The same technique is used in 'Mr. Proudham and Mr. Sleight, where the narrator is an observer of the bizarre and disturbing character of Mr. Sleight.

In every other story Susan Hill uses a third person narrative allowing the focus to move from one character or situation to another and yet certain characters seem larger, deeper and more interesting than others, such as Mrs. Ebbs in 'Missy' and the old man Mr. Bowry in 'The Custodian'. The stories in the collection are peopled with few characters and, apart from 'Red and Green Beads' (which is set in France) and 'Ossie (which moves between several international cities), the canvas is small. Susan Hill chooses local communities that seem familiar and reminiscent of her own childhood by the sea in Scarborough, but where the precise location is generally not given.

These are harrowing yet fascinating stories - they unsettle and intrigue because they put a microscope on the human condition. This, allied with Hill's direct yet powerful writing make this book a miniature masterpiece.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and Brutal look at the fragility of Happiness, 18 Jun 2004
By A Customer
A collection of short and poignant stories about people marginalised by their, sometimes tragic circumstances.
This is not a gloomy book, however. It encourages you to see joy in even the small things in life (Mr Proudham at the funfair in Mr Proudham and Mr Sleight) and this is not a book about banality and mediocraty.
The writing is vivaciouly colourful using only sparse use of simile and metaphor. It is the characters that leap from the page. The narrative is rich without being flowery.
I have had this book for 14 years and still read it very often. Utterly fantastic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strange....but so true, 2 Mar 2000
By A Customer
I strongly recommend this collection of short stories.They concentrate on characters that are strange to say the least.Susan Hill manages to make you care about the lives of these marginalised figures.If you like open-ended stories you will love these and they serve as a fine and accurate analysis of human nature.
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5.0 out of 5 stars masterful, 10 April 2014
By 
kevin marston (Nottingham, Notts. England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Bit of Singing and Dancing (Kindle Edition)
To write successful stories is an art in precision. Susan Hill crafts her work with masterful care - drawing the reader in to these bleak and lonely English places with characters who are living on the edges of life. I really enjoyed this collection.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A writer of talent.., 14 Dec 2013
By 
Mr. John Sweeney (Dublin) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Bit of Singing and Dancing (Kindle Edition)
A book that is well written by an extremely talented writer...these short stories capture the characters really well..and contain one or two surprises along the way...the headline story..a bit of singing and dancing is well scripted and moving in a way..how great swaths of our lives can be wasted by others but happiness is always possible...
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 23 July 2013
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For a second hand book it was in very good condition. I just loved the stories in the book and I have always enjoyed Susan Hill as a writer
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2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed. This compilation of short stories did not turn ..., 20 Aug 2014
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This review is from: A Bit of Singing and Dancing (Kindle Edition)
Was v. disappointed. This compilation of short stories did not turn out to be as good as I expected from this author. Maybe I'm missing something but these are not my sort of stories at all.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit of Singing and Dancing., 9 Dec 2013
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This review is from: A Bit of Singing and Dancing (Kindle Edition)
I've enjoyed all the Susan Hill novels and short stories I've read to date, but not this one. It was too gloomy and depressing. Did not enjoy it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much to sing and dance about, 4 Dec 2013
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This review is from: A Bit of Singing and Dancing (Kindle Edition)
I am a fan of Susan Hill but this was disappointing. Not her usual well written book. Definitely nothing to sing and dance about. A little depressing.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What's the point?, 8 Jun 2014
This review is from: A Bit of Singing and Dancing (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed The Woman in Black, but - on the basis of this book, at least - I don't think Susan Hill has a talent for the short story. None of these stories seemed to me to have any point - they just rambled on for a bit and then they ended. Very disappointing.
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