Monday, 26 October 2009

The beacon (Hill)

I had an incredibly relaxing weekend as for once I was neither working nor rushing away somewhere. I did have an afternoon out with my partner, did some baking (see tomorrow for bake of the week), and went to a wedding, but there was Quite A Lot Of Time For Reading. This was good as I amassed piles of library loot (the picture here only tells a third of the story as I made two further library visits last week!)

Having read Howards End is on the landing the other week, I was curious to read some more of Susan Hill's work. I greatly enjoyed reading Mrs De Winter a couple of years ago which I picked up because it was a sequel to Rebecca, but I had not read anything else by her. I'm hoping to read The woman in black for Halloween this weekend, but the copy I have been promised seems to have got stuck in the post. Having read about The beacon on Simon's blog, I thought that I would give that a try and the copy I reserved at the library arrived with commendable speed.

Essentially it is the story of a family, told in two time frames, who inhabit an old farmhouse called The beacon. It tells the story of the children, Frank, May, Colin and Berenice growing up, and it tells the story of May clearing out the house after their mother's death. In this latter time, the family have been devastated by the publication of a book by Frank. Frank has written a so-called misery memoir, a book in the style of Pelzer's A child called it, outlining the miserable circumstances of his childhood. Like the family, the reader, has seen that nothing like this ever occurred in his upbringing. But, like the family, the reader is left wondering if they have missed something, did Frank really endure something bad? Were the rest of the family covering things up?

Having read The beacon, I felt that I could see where some of the style of Howard's End is on the Landing had come from. The book is short, almost a novella, and the chapters, like those in Howard's End were also short. I felt that this worked successfully in this book; the chapters followed on from each other to weave a story from the different threads and I kept turning the pages to complete the picture. I thought this was an excellent premise on which to write a novel; there have been one or two cases where misery memoirs have been questioned. But aside from that, I found the characters' lives interesting, their growing up and moving away from home.

Fingers crossed for the arrival of The woman in black by Halloween!


  1. "Having read Howards End is on the landing the other week, I was curious to read some more of Susan Hill's work". It is curious how books can inspire us to want and seek completely different things; after reading Howards End is on the Landing, I have no inclination to ever read another Susan Hill book. I enjoyed The Woman in Black a lot but I've now had my fill; I hope it arrives in time for you to read on Hallowe'en.

  2. This one is going on my list! My book club read A Child Called It several years ago (I really hate those misery memoirs!), and I'm intrigued with the idea of having a character write a memoir of that type. Thanks for linking to Simon's review, too.
    It sounds like you had a perfect weekend!

  3. Claire - I think I was curious to see what literary output had resulted from all of the reading discussed. Are you not curious to read her sequel to Rebecca? I did enjoy that very much.

    JoAnn - I think it would make a good book club read. And the weekend was lovely - sadly there won't be another one like it until 5th December :(

  4. Mildly curious and I imagine I will at some point but certainly not any time soon.

  5. Susan Hill seems to be the talk of many blogs right now. And it seems people either love or hate her work from what I've read. I am now curious enough to read something of hers and see what I think.

  6. It is rather good, isn't it, and so very intriguing - the last line made me gasp out loud.


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