3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Strong and Pertinent Story,
This review is from: Black Sheep (Hardcover)
This story hits hard from the beginning. How does it feel to be trapped in a small mining community with no escape from the realism of a stark future in the pits of hell? Susan Hill describes the confinement of the village in the fictional Mount Zeal where the biblical connotations of paradise lie in the lowest of the three streets and the hell is the miner's shift from the home in the highest street, to the neighbourhood and to the pit itself. Susan Hill focuses on the Howker family. Many generations have followed the ancestral footpath into the confinement of the black hole with it's misery, monotony and malcontent but few have challenged the inevitable pathway to the pit shaft. John and Evie Howker have five children. Some follow the solemn track to the coal, some have ambition to achieve a different life. Youngest son, Ted is the black sheep of the title, who declares his hand to his father, as does older sister Rose. Their ideals of escapism are received with incredibility.
What follows is the awareness that 'reality was overpowering'. Susan Hill writes with this power and conviction. These communities have existed. The time is immaterial. The pits may be allegorical of life. The economy of words do not diminish character development nor the capture of the frustration. The ending is nebulous in the hope of provoking thought. Bleak it may be but potent it certainly is. Gripping.