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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 24 January 2014
It took me a little while to get into this book but once I realised the pace of it and begun to know the characters I enjoyed it. Other people have already said what happens in the book so I won't bore you with that but if you are a fan of Susan Hill give it a go. It is a slow paced book but beautifully written.
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on 1 February 2000
"Air and Angels" is yet another powerful Susan Hill novel. In simple terms it is about the wishes, dreams and dreads of a variety of somewhat upper class English folk and how their emotions clash against the constraining conventions of the well ordered society for which they are meant to be standard bearers. The action centres on Thomas Cavendish who is a Cambridge University tutor living with his sister. His life is quite simple and he wants for nothing, his passions being the birds that he keeps and the teaching he does. However his quiet life is shattered when he falls in love with a young teenager named Kitty who comes over from India in order to be educated in her home country.
This is only the main plot line however, and the book is crammed with a huge number of well defined characters, all somehow troubled and anxious of how things will work out for them. Susan Hill is very skilled in describing them and their thoughts in a moving way that is also quite old fashioned, befitting the period in which the book is set (which is never accurately defined).
All in all the book is very strong and the prose - as always in her books - is very elegant. You get the impression that Susan Hill could have drafted the Poll Tax Act and it would have been just about the most beautiful thing anyone had ever read.
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on 9 February 2012
Susan Hill's writing is beautiful, subtle and poetic, although the run-on sentences and sometimes dodgy use of commas sometimes bugged me. The way this story is told is unconventional in that it flits back and forth between a variety of characters - some major, some minor - across time and locations. I found this both interesting and frustrating. I think that part could maybe have been handled slightly better, as she would launch into paragraphs referring only to he or she, when she had been talking about someone completely different in the last sentence, which was a bit dizzying. But it didn't require an inordinate amount of brainpower to catch up and figure out where and when and with whom you were supposed to be following along, so that can be forgiven, and it was an effective technique of giving little vignettes into people's lives and I'm not sure it could have been told as effectively in some more conventional way.

Essentially the book is about the moment in time when life changes irrevocably for two intertwined groups of people in Victorian England and India. I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say it is essentially an ill-fated love story, as this is revealed straightaway at the beginning of the book. The book builds slowly to an inevitable climax and the time spent on building up the main characters' personalities and motives seems at first perhaps a little long, but in the end I think it was well-paced, for it makes the final tragedy much more heart-felt, and I think the sadness of this book will linger with me for quite some time because I do feel for the characters now. On the other hand, some characters are introduced only in a tangential way that I felt could have been fleshed out more in a longer book. I felt that much was left unanswered at the end - however, I can't decide if this is perfect or annoying.

All in all though, I think this is a subtle and heartbreaking masterpiece of a book, the best I've read by Susan Hill so far (I should probably say that I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Woman in Black).
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on 11 July 2007
A simply beautiful book. The writing is impeccable, drawing (in true Susan Hill style) a picture of England (in this case mostly Cambridge and the Fens) and it's seasons. But it is all the characters, explored in depth and sensitivity, which make this book so profound. The impact of the dry old professor falling in love with a young girl and the effect it has on him, had me in tears at the end. I recommend this book as it is truly gifted writing.
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Thomas Cavendish, in his middle fifties, a Cambridge Don of unimpeachable reputation lives a quiet, celibate and orderly life with his sister, Georgiana. Thomas, a keen bird enthusiast, enjoys his teaching at college and, at the close of the day, he is happy to return to his beautiful home with his purpose-built aviary adjoining his study. Georgiana, several years younger than Thomas, idolises her brother and for years has been content to housekeep for him, but lately she has been feeling a little unsettled and knowing that her close friend, Florence, is desperate to marry Thomas, she feels that perhaps a little matchmaking is in order. Florence, who lives at home with her aged mother, fantasizes about being Thomas' wife and when she discovers that Thomas is in line for the Master's position at his college, she convinces herself that he will need a wife, and will shortly propose to her. Meanwhile, in India, Florence's cousin's daughter, Kitty, fifteen years old and on the verge of womanhood, decides she would like to spread her wings and go to England. Her heartbroken parents, only wanting the best for their daughter, arrange for Kitty to travel to England and to live with Florence whilst she completes her education. Sometime later, whilst walking along the river on a beautiful May afternoon, Thomas sees a young girl standing on a bridge and is transfixed, and when he sees her again in the company of Florence, he realizes the young woman who has had such an effect on him, is fifteen-year-old Kitty. And before he knows it, Thomas has fallen deeply and utterly in love for the first time in his life.

Susan Hill's 'Air and Angels' is a wonderfully elegant novel set mostly in Cambridge and India, at around (what appears to be) the end of the nineteenth century - a time of parasols, punting, tennis parties and tea on the lawn. There are some lovely descriptions of place, especially The Fens in Norfolk, where Thomas escapes to sail and watch his beloved birds. "At night and for the whole of the following day, it blew a gale off the sea, roaring and booming... he had stood at the window and watched the dawn come up with great, inky clouds piling together like fast moving ships against the reddening glow". However, although there is much to enjoy and admire in Susan Hill's writing, I must admit that I found Thomas to be rather irritating; the much pampered elder brother who, one moment appears quite disgusted when one of his undergraduates confides in him that he may have impregnated his girlfriend, but the next moment is pursuing an under age innocent girl, almost young enough to be his granddaughter. He coldly rejects Florence, and feels she is deluding herself, but quite readily falls into his own fantasies about Kitty. All of that said, my lack of sympathy for Thomas did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel as a whole, and although there is a feeling of melancholy running through the story and this is not my favourite of Susan Hill's many excellent novels, it is still beautifully written and certainly worth the read.

4 Stars.
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on 31 December 2012
A beautiful book that left me troubled because it touched so many emotions that I have experienced yet could never express as eloquently as Susan Hill. Her descriptions of the Cambridgeshire countryside in all its seasons was stunning. LN
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 21 December 2011
This is a lovely book, beautifully written, as are all of Susan Hill's books that I have read so far. I have read several of her "gothic ghost" stories, as well as a few of her other novels. This novel, set in England and India in a time of ladies, tea parties, parasols and young men travelling to India to make their fortunes, is a wonderful story of lives that intertwine, pass by, touch briefly and glide onwards. People meet and part, life is lived, loves are felt and lost, and through it all their lives are changed.

The central characters seem peripheral to the action for much of the book, their lives being felt and experienced by others around them. When they come "alive", if I can put it like that, they are transformed - experiencing, living, `electric', `real' for the first time. But can it last? And should it even be so?

This is a beautiful, haunting, evocative novel of another time, other places, a way of life that we can never know, but which we can enjoy the retelling of in this wonderful novel. Highly recommended.
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on 18 February 2015
Potentially it's a beautiful, involving book, delicately written and full of atmosphere; but it was spoilt for me by my increasing irritation at the author's use - or too often misuse - of punctuation. Her trick of stringing together a whole paragraph of descriptive phrases separated only by commas can often work well, like brush-stroke after brush-stroke on a canvas, but when over-used it becomes terribly monotonous and creates a "dying fall" as there's no underlying structure - like prose read aloud badly, where every sentence ends with a downward inflection. In other places commas are superfluous or just plain wrong, jolting the reader to a halt as he/she has to decide where the connections and breaks actually lie. I assume the editorial team were not allowed to touch Susan Hill's punctuation - but what a pity! There's so much that's appealing in the book, but for anyone with an eye for good grammar the many descriptive passages are a jerky and frustrating read.
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on 2 November 2013
I was disappointed with this book. I found the grammar poor with sentences far too long. There were far too many 'ands' and 'buts' including starting sentences with these. I thought the character development poor with too much flouncing around and melodrama. Given that the settings had such potential ie India, Norfolk, Oxford , there were no descriptions which brought the places to life. The jumping about of the plot felt random and prevented the novel from flowing. Also I was very irritated by the constant use of questions. Eg 'who am I?' 'What does it mean?' even the ending is a question which means the author either couldn't think of an ending for the character or is planning a sequel. No!!!! I scan read the last quarter of the book. I am really starting to despair of 'best sellers' and am now avoiding any novel which advertises itself as such. There must be so many unpublished talented writers out there! It's all about marketing I'm afraid.
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on 19 October 2010
The book was purchased as second hand and in good condition. I just can't get enough of Susan Hill's books, she has a real understanding of human relationships which leave you thinking long after the last page. This book is no exception.
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