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Is it Her? by [Hill, Jonathan, Middleton, Kath]
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Is it Her? Kindle Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Length: 97 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 319 KB
  • Print Length: 97 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Hilltop Press; 1 edition (25 Mar. 2016)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #433,270 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition
Drama teachers are aware of a technique which involves presenting a photograph or painting to a group of students and asking them to improvise the circumstances leading up to the moment the image frozen in the frame occurs. The students can also be invited to improvise the development of the action beyond the frozen image and project the characters into the future: a 'What Happened Next?' exercise.
As a drama teacher I was rarely satisfied with this technique because it often resulted in superficial outcomes and working in a busy drama department there was rarely the time for the students to explore the technique in depth or layer in ever greater complexity.
However, Kath Middleton and Jonathan Hill have shown that the technique provides a wonderful stimulus for writers, not least because they obviously have had the time and motivation to develop the necessary complexities and create stories of depth and significance which resonate far beyond the original frozen image.
'Is it Her?', an intriguing picture by artist Rod Buckingham, is the visual stimulus chosen by the writers for their independent novellas both of which have been written without collusion. The painting depicts a bend in a cobbled road somewhere in a town or village. Terraced houses with red doors line up on either side of the bend but are separated by a gap. Linking the houses across this gap is a set of curved, iron railings. The houses and railings appear to be on a hill or a rise, overlooking a hidden landscape, possibly a plain or sea; perhaps a pond. The sky is overcast and filled with dense banks of louring cloud which extend all the way to the barely visible horizon. The cobbled road glistens beneath the pouring rain.
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Two well-crafted, compelling novellas for the price of one?

Count me in.

The overall concept is great too, in that both stories were written in response to the same painting, featured on the cover.

For its original and striking plot alone, the first novella gets five stars. It actually reminds me of a play, in that the action is confined to one setting for most of it. And when I say confined, what I mean is that it is claustrophobic. Which is a good thing. This plot is as tense as a fishing line.

The story takes place during World War II, and the bombings and conscriptions knocking on the door of the characters’ lives only add to the sense of claustrophobia. This was a time when people couldn’t talk about certain things. So they were limited to their actions. And this led to unusual and often tragic situations, such as the one described in this novella. The mounting suspense is helped along by some lovely description and the piece is full of portents, like rising smoke, a cat of a certain colour and— well I don’t want to spoil the story, so I will let you read it for yourself.

The second story is just as good – another five stars from me – and written in a conversational style that flows so smoothly it draws you in before you even know what’s happening. I found the details about World War II realistic and interesting (a balance that isn’t easy to achieve), as the narrator gets into the air in a Wellington bomber. Actually, I found it completely immersive and never for a second doubted that the events actually happened. And while the war is going on, romance is blossoming back home. What I like about this part of the story, the romantic point of it all, is how realistic it is and gently handled.
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I like the concept behind Is It Her? (US) Two fine writers interpreting the art work of the cover to produce a pair of novellas that complement each other in terms when read together.

There are similarities, as you might expect. Each has a wartime theme and each deals with a reunification of sorts after the world has been ripped apart by violence.

The opener, by Jonathan Hill is a taught, tense piece that explores the lives of four people whose lives are interlinked as they sit playing cards. Two of the men are going off to fight the next day. The situation brings out issues for everyone as they try to come to terms with what’s about to happen. The emotional weight of it bears down on them all and soon the cracks in their world begin to appear and then to widen.

This story has the feel of an edgy piece of theatre to it. The confines of the setting and the sharply drawn lines kept me in mind of a play where the claustrophobia is palpable and the tale is told as much through the actions of the characters as their words.

Kath Middleton paints with broader brushes. Her story is told in two parts, each from the perspective of pre-war sweethearts as they struggle with the events that wartime brings. The arc of each story is huge and Middleton has done a good job of condensing the tale into a novella. There are tasters of what it was like to live through a war from the battlegrounds of the air and on the home-front and neither side had it easy.

Each piece works perfectly well in its own right. The fact that they come together adds value to each and I reckon there’s more mileage in projects such as this for these authors in the future.
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