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Found 18 results

  1. Susan Hill continues her series of little ghost/horror stories with Printer's Devil Court. This outing is about body snatching, bringing the dead to life - the stuff of Burke and Hare and for more cinematic consumers, Flatliners. 3 medical students make a pact to bring a body back to life however rather than re-animating a corpse they fuse a dead man with a recently passed yonger body. Usually I am a fan of Susan Hill - I love her previous scary books, notably The Woman in White which has taken on a life of its own, and her straight family dramas - but this book is devoid of life, much like a reanimated corpse or the body parts scavanged to do so. It truly was a chore to read and for a tiny book of 106 pages, this is quite disappointing. I feel that it may have been a better read at one sitting but I won't know now. Ironically, I think it was too cold, too clinical and we were held at a distance from the events by the framing technique used. It just didn't work for me.
  2. This is the latest, as far as I know, in the Simon Serrailler series by Susan Hill. As is usual for this series the book is as much about the family of Simon Serrailler and happenings in Lafferton, the town in which it is set, as it is about any of the crimes described. Again if you are looking for a hard hitting police story with descriptions of how crime is solved this book is probably not for you. As with other books in this series I found Cat, Simon's doctor sister, to be the most likeable character. Simon himself often does not appear that much and when he does I have always found him to be a rather remote character. This does not change in this book although we do get less involved in his love life than we have in others which some readers will prefer! The case on which the book is losely based is an especially nasty one and involves Simon working undercover. When I started reading the book and found out what it was going to be about I was not sure that I wanted to continue but although much is suggested not much actual detail is given thank goodness although I suspect that just the suggestion that this sort of crime does exist may well be enough to put some readers off. Once again the story is told from several points of view and once again other issues are dealt with within the book as well as the main crime. One other reader of a previous book in the series critised Susan Hill and suggested that she almost used the books to air her feelings regarding The National Health system amongst other things. This book is no different and much is made about hospice care, the way that our society deals with death and in many ways the diminishing of any faith within the process. Having lost a close member of my family not that long ago I found some of the points quite interesting but can understand how others might not be so impressed. To sum up I would have to say that this book follows the same pattern as previous books in the series. I read the books as much to continue Cat's story as I do for any crime involved. I would have to say to that on the whole I think that the books are getting a bit weaker. Once again a decent read but not an outstanding one.
  3. The Woman in Black has been a long-running play in the West-end, so when I was obliged to read the novel (set as a GCSE text, naturally, as is becoming a tradition with this author's cross-over fiction) I was more than a little curious. I had read other Susan Hill novels with pleasure, always captured by her ability to sustain a mysterious atmosphere and reminded of what simple prose can achieve, for she is mistress of the telling simple description, like, here:Mrs Daily was a quiet, shy-seeming, powdery-looking little woman, even more ill-at ease in her surroundings than he. (Mr Daily, her husband, who is to advise the narrator to take a dog with him if he insists on staying the night at the reputedly haunted Eel Marsh.) Mrs Daily is not an important character but why is she so ill-at ease the reader wants to know. Hill goes on: 'She smiled nervously,crocheted something elaborate with very fine cotton.' The novel is obviouly a Gothic romance with fairly obvious fictional devices to prolong tension and beguile the reader for a couple of hours: remote house nobody speaks about, reputed but hardly mentioned supernatural happenings, determined but unwise narrator bent on uncovering secrets about deceased's will, house cut off at high tide, stories of drowning, repeated warnings unheeded. All basic stuff, but on its own level intriguiging. Nice change, anyway, from the standard fare at GCSE - Lord of the Flies (still going the rounds) and Of Mice and Men (ditto).
  4. A Question of Identity is another in Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler crime series. The same set of characters, namely Simon and his extended family and a few other members of the police force for which Simon works, reappear once again. For me the books have always been as much about the happenings within Simon's family as the crimes the books portray and A Question of Identity is no exception. I know that other readers find the lack of hard crime writing a bit of a let down in the books but have found that this does not bother me. In fact I found the crime element within this particular book to be very good and although there is never any great crime plot I have always found that the crime element of the books have always been strong enough to keep me turning the pages. And so to Simon's family and his love life! I found that Simon's difunctional love life intruded less in this book than it did in the past book. As usual nothing ever runs smoothly for Simon, a rather austere character, but in this book I found the situation he found himself in and the way in which he and Rachael handled it both believable and very sad rather than annoying. I find the happenings of Simon's sister Cat and her family some of the most enjoyable parts of the books and have really come to like Cat very much. I suspect that it is more because of Cat than Simon or any crime element that I persist with the books at all. I find the continuing saga of Cat's family very enjoyable and feel that often real issues within family life are dealt with without me feeling that said issues are all the books are about. When reading other books within this series both I and other readers have made comments about Susan Hill using the books as a means of putting across her feelings regarding certain life issues such as alternative medicine. In the last book I for one did wonder if the personal rant aspect of the book imposed iteslf just a little too much for me. In A Question of Identity I was far less aware of any such rant. I felt that the book was probably much better for it. Although I am quite happy for such issues to play their part I have found Susan Hill's slant on some of the issues to be a little biased. All in all I found this to be a really enjoyable and worthwile read. In the book before this I was beginning to wonder if the series was running out of steam but was pleasently surprised with this one. I will certainly be buying the next one when it comes out in paperback.
  5. Recently finished this, the sixth in the Serrailler detective series, and just started to find myself thinking that things were beginning to weaken. I've enjoyed the series up until now, and while I'm not saying that this book has completely turned me off it, this seemed to me to be the weakest so far. The crime itself, and its eventual conclusion, was, I felt, a bit lame which didn't help but for me the weakness of the book was primarily when Serrailler encountered a certain Rachel Wyatt, and from then on it all felt like it was descending into Mills and Boon territory. Now I must point out that I have never read a Mills and Boon (no, really!) but they always seem to be held up as the yardstick by which, how shall I put it, soppy romance is measured. After their initial encounter there follow many instances where "unspoken thoughts", "meaningful looks", "acute longing" etc. etc. feature; you get the picture by now. She's married to a man roughly 40 years her senior, also with Parkinson's Disease (I think), so she's "torn between my duty to him but my love for you". It all got a bit 'reach for the bucket' for me, but I fancy it's not over yet, as I will no doubt find out as and when I tackle the seventh book. As usual, I continue to like the interactions with the family, but this series needs a really good meaty crime to get stuck into, although I do think the core of this series is as much the characters as the crime element. Not the best of the series.
  6. http://www.bookgrouponline.com/tags/forums/Susan+Hill/ edit: The above link is no longer working The threads from the forums. NB: not all the books listed are in the forum above: most are, but some are in general fiction etc .
  7. Looking for an audiobook in the library I spotted this by Susan Hill, and took it out without a second glance - and so hadn't noticed it was one of the Simon Serrailler series. I'm a bit cross with myself, as I would have preferred to start with the first in the series. This is the hunt for the serial killer of prostitutes in the cathedral town where Serrailler lives (although he is away on leave for the first few chapters). It brought to mind the almost local case in 2008 of the girls killed in Ipswich - and presumably it was the starting point for this novel in Susan Hill's mind, as it was published in 2010. I was a bit uncomfortable with that association, although the killer in the book branches out a bit. There are some 'obvious' suspects, especially in light of the Ipswich case, but I couldn't believe she'd be that crass. I did figure out who the murderer was before the reveal, but it was probably the least likely suspect. There are some touches of Barchester (which are acknowledged) in the Cathedral politics, which was mildly amusing. What I found immensely irritating was the frequent use of the phrase "You do understand that, don't you?" I can't quite remember if it was Serrailler himself, or his GP sister , or both who used it, and don't know if I would have been just as irritated by it on the page, but hearing it so often almost had me throwing the CDplayer at the wall. Someone please tell me that this patronising phrase is not a feature of all the books in the series, because I'll give the rest a miss if that's the case.
  8. I have just finished this book today. It is the first book of a series concerning a detective chief inspector called Simon Serrailler and his group of detectives. It is the story of an unusual serial killer. There are a number of narrators which I found a little difficult to get on with to start with as I would just get used to one narrator and the author would change to another. Once I got used to each narrator and their part in the story I found it easier to read. The book was very detailed and in some ways a little slow going. However it did build to an unforseen climax. I have read a fair bit of crime fiction and am rarely kept in the dark until the end. Although the killer was revealed before the end I had no idea of how the book was to end and found myself genuinely shocked at the conclusion. All in all once I got used to the different narrators I found the book easy to read. I am not sure whether I am actually terribly keen on Simon Serrailler. He is one of those strong silent types who give very little of themselves. However, I feel that I got enough out of the book to continue with the series. The second book in the series is on its way from Amazon.
  9. I am just about to start this novel, the fourth in the Simon Serrailler series. Hopefully it will be as good as the previous three although I doubt that the main character will be anymore approachable than in the previous novels!
  10. This is the third in Susan Hill's series of books featuring Simon Serrailler, a Chief Inspector in Lafferton, England. The previous two books are The Various Haunts of Men and The Pure in Heart. Unusually, I have managed to read these books in order. I'm not very good about reviewing the mysteries that I read, probably because I whip through them fairly quickly. In any event, I did not review the first two even though I read them fairly recently. Maybe I will go back and do that, but probably not. In any event, by this third book, we've come to know Serrailler, his family, and his co-workers pretty well. I like almost all of the supporting characters more than I like Serrailler. In general, he seems to be a decent, but not great, police officer and an acceptable, but not great, boss. He thrives on the excitement and adrenaline rush of police work, which I don't think is a great quality in a police officer (if they want that rush, they usually can create it, which is why I don't think it's a good quality). On a personal level, he's interesting on the surface, but pretty empty on the inside. He's constantly falling in love with someone unavailable to him and then, in turn, being unavailable to the women who fall in love with him, often because he has acted in ways that make them think he is available. Even his family relationships are a bit that way--he takes a lot more from his twin sister (the are 2 of triplets, actually) than he gives. But...Susan Hill is a very good writer and her stories are good. In this book, they catch a serial murderer of children whose killings were introduced in The Pure in Heart. Both the previous book and this one are painful to read at times. In The Pure in Heart, you see things from the point of view of one of the victims and it's very hard to read and feel. In this book, you see the reactions of his mother and sister when his remains are finally found. At the very end, they go to the location, which is pretty remote and isolated. Thinking about what it would be like to be the mother in those circumstances was almost overwhelming emotionally. Hill does a very good job with that part of the story. That story plus a few other story lines give Hill lots of opportunity to address the nature of evil and the pain of loss. There is a good deal of loss in this book, although there are bits of hopefulness. I was surprised by how many important characters in this book attempted to deal with their problems by moving to a new place. In the two main instances, it seems like the people are running from problems that either could have been solved by an adjustment to their current living situation or will probably follow them where they are going, or both. That being said, I intend to read the next two books because I think the stories are good, Hill doesn't shy away from the horror of crime, and I am curious to see what will happen to all of the characters...except the main one.
  11. I have literally just started reading this book today. It is the second in Susan Hill's series about Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serailler. Although when reading The Various Haunts of Men, the first in the series, I was not terribly keen on Simon Serailler I enjoyed the book enough and the way in which it was written to continue with the series. Having only read the first chapter or two of the book I cannot say whether or not the Chief Inspector will improve with time. However, Susan Hill's style of writing is very readable and I am sure that I will soon be as drawn into this story as I was with the last.
  12. The latest from Susan Hill, The Small Hand, is another creepy book in the vein of The Woman in Black and The Man In The Picture. Hill does the 'young, vulnerable, emotional male in suoernatural tale' very well and I hope she continues to enthrall us with these types of tale for quite some time. Adam is a antiquarian book dealer and loves. He has a very wealthy client, one that he treasures because this client loves the books he receives as books and not just status items. One journey down to meet his client, Adam gets lost and is pulled towards a derelict house, The White House, deep in an overgrown part of the countryside. It once was grand, with a expansive, immaculate garden, but now it has been reclaimed by nature. Standing in a part of the garden, Adam suddenly feels the sensation of a small hand clasping his own. He even feels the desire to enclose that hand and hold it protectively. That feeling begins to haunt him. He can't quite shake the feeling of holding that hand. His wealthy client sets Adam a new challenge, to find a First Folio of Shakespeare, of which money would be no matter. The client's wife tells Adam about the house, how the garden was famous around the world and used to receive visitors. She begins to send him little notes every time she finds out more about the house. Meanwhile, Adam is off to a remote Monastery to inspect and buy the First Folio for his client. The monks have a treasure trove of books and items, and need to sell some to maintain their crumbling monastery. While there, Adam hopes to recover from his experiences with the hand, but it's not to be and the hand now seems to want Adam to drown. Every time he is near water, he feels the hand again, and a overwhelming desire to plunge himself into the water. That desire, the fact that the hand, once so small and vulnerable, now wants Adam to drown begins to take its toll and Adam struggles to remain sane. Though not quite as creepy as TWIB, I still found this tale chilling. Hill seems to intimate from the outset that this is going to be a personal haunting, that the secret of the haunting lies buried, and just needs Adam to uncover it. It certainly feels throughout that the small hand, so innocent at the beginning, will have a malevolent reason for haunting Adam. I read it in the living room, early evening, with the kids watching TV in the background and it still gave me the shivers. Susan Hill is a master at these chilling tales, small in scope and in stature but big on atmosphere and chills.
  13. I usually enjoy Susan Hill's novels, but found this one began to pall around halfway, so did not finish it, which I slightly regret for she's one of my favourite authors. It has a sort of Virginia Woolf feel about it, which I quite likes to begin with - you know, the flipping in and out of different consciousnesses and the lack of conventional narrative. Her prose has always inclined to the eccentric, with commas instead of full stops and so many one-word sentences, paragraphs beginning haphazardly as the whim takes the author, even several one-word paragraphs. The novel ends with a question: 'But what about Kitty?' Frankly I didn't really care. And that's the problem with this kind of novel - too often we don't care about character - I think of VW again; we marvel at the bravura technique and are refreshed by a new - but now not so new - way of telling, but do we really care what happens to Louis in The Waves or in this case Kitty, or in To the Lighthouse that Lily Briscoe has 'had her vision'?
  14. As the author states, it is not an autobiography in the usual sense but it is a record of more than just of what she has read. Looking for a book on a certain shelf and failing to find it, leads her to her other shelves and the realisation of the many books there that she hasn't yet opened, or that have been read but forgotten and those that should be re-read. She forgoes buying books for a year in order to catch up. I found it an interesting read particularly because of the recognition factor - agreeing with her about certain 'classics' that do nothing for her (and for me), her being unapologetic about her childhood love of Enid Blyton, the books that are unjustly forgotten, and 20th century cult books - like 'Catcher in the Rye'- which prove disappointing on a re-read (her book was written before Salinger's death of course)etc.. At the end of the book she names her final forty, the ones which would stay on her shelves even if all the rest had to be discarded. It had the effect on me of ordering some there that I'd never tried as most of her judgments I agree with. I will also try to be, as she recommends, a 'Slow Reader': there's already a Slow Food movement.
  15. I love Susan Hill's work, apart from the Simon Serrailler crime series, all of her novels are extremely well-written and damn good yarns. So, I picked up the teeny hardback of this book without a moment's doubt. It was especially exciting to see her back in the realm of the supernatural, especially after a long break away. I will try my best to sum up this novel(la) without spoiling any of it, but it might be difficult! Oliver is a previous student of Professor Theo Parmitter's at Cambridge. While he is visiting Theo, he spots a curious oil-painting of a Venetian carnival/masked ball scene on his wall. Oliver is drawn to the painting, in fact, finds it hard to tear his eyes away. Many years ago, Theo felt similarly about the painting, and just had to have it when it came up in an auction. And so Theo begins to tell Oliver the story behind the painting. There is nothing new in this novel. As with many classic Gothic tales, we are presented with a layered narrative. Oliver tells the tale, Theo tells his tale to Oliver, the Countess tells her tale of the painting to Theo and Oliver's wife adds her little piece of narrative too. Theo tells his tale beside a fire on two stormy nights. There is a silent and uncanny mansion. The masked ball has long been a set piece for deviant events. The supernatural painting capturing people visually, mentally and physically has been done before. Hill, for this supernatural turn presents us with a woman in white. And just like her Woman In Black, the joy in this novel is just in the telling - it's a wonderful fireside story to sit and listen to with a few chills and thrills along the way. Perfect for reading aloud to a captive audience on a winter night. One thing I am curious about is the subtitle 'A Ghost Story'. The book doesn't actually contain any ghosts in the traditional sense of floating spirit, hauntings, or people back from the grave/dead. There is elements of this certainly but it's odd to label this book as such when the 'ghost' element is so much more developed than that. Maybe Hill just didn't think The Man In The Picture was enough...I don't know. Anyway, that aside, it really is a wonderful little book, best read in one sitting, (it'll only take an hour or so), at night, alone.
  16. 'The Beacon' is a remote farmstead where various members and generations of the Prime family have "fallen out that way". The present generation of Prime children: May, Colin, Frank, and the exotically named Berenice, are all grown-up with their own lives. Through May, the most promising and therefore most tragic of the siblings, a potted family history of loss, frustration, disappointment and entrapment is told. However, hovering over most of the book, are ominous mentions of Frank, the odd child of the bunch, malevolent, silent, watching. The reader discovers that the siblings don't mention Frank, and especially little is said of him to their dying mother, Bertha Prime. Bertha, herself, her name should ring literary bells, was quickly trapped into life at The Beacon, and appears to resent her children that make it out, Berenice especially who most resembles a young Bertha. Toward the end, rather rushed I felt, we discover what Frank has done to justify being hated and ostracized by the family. They, at one point, even decide not to tell him of Bertha's death. I won't spoil the reveal for you, but will say that it is an issue that is highly visible/relevant today. It revolves around Frank's 'recollection' of his childhood. Maybe a little too contemporary an issue for the feel of the novel - but it makes for an interesting read. One that leaves you thinking after you close the book. I actually wondered if Hill herself was making a comment on how she personally feels about such things. I am anxious to discuss the ending of the book with anyone who has read it, as I am unsure as to how I interpreted it. I am a huge fan of Hill's novels, not the Serraillier series though, and I very much enjoyed having another of her books to read. She has a innate storytelling ability and such a simplistic writing style that she just confounds you by saying so much with so little. This novel for me, I think, will be a grower. The denouement feels a little hurried and as I said, a little too contemporary for the feel of the book. But, I like how Hill handles the fall out and resolution of Bertha's funeral. It's not dramatic, but perfectly believable and honest to the nature of this family.
  17. Of the four books I have read by Susan Hill, three have been classified on the Fantastic Fiction website as “Children’s Novels” I have enjoyed them very much, but while there is a certain old-fashioned and naive style to the writing, I just can’t see them as books for children at all. This first came up when discussing I'm The King Of The Castle, back in '06, and the thread now resides in Novels of The 20th Century, rather than here in the CYA forum Gentlemen And Ladies is a gently moving book about a group of people of late-middle to advanced old- age, the events that connect them and the changing circumstances of their lives. A Change For The Better, which I have just finished, is about some of the inhabitants of a shabby-genteel seaside resort. Mainly elderly they are all disconnected one way or another from their supposed nearest and dearest, and mostly longing for some change to happen in their dull lives - only will they be able to make a better life for themselves when change comes? Neither of them seem to be the sort of book that would appeal to youngsters. Anyone else know these books? any thoughts?
  18. Restored Thread megustaleer 15th April 2006 05:31 PM In spite of it's inclusion in the exam syllabus, I've never thought of I'm The King Of The Castle as a children's/young adult's book, probably because I didn't read it until I was an adult. It's 14 years since I first read it. My two sons were school-aged, and all the members of my bookgroup were parents of children of similar age to mine (I can't remember the ages of Hooper and Kingshaw). My elder son had been bullied (successfully dealt with by the school), and the other I worried might be a bully (not, apparently, just very popular). The other readers either had experienced, or had vague worries about, bullying of their children. So, we had a long and interesting discussion about bullying, and about whether or not there were children who were 'victims' or 'bullies' by nature. In the book, the roles were briefly reversed, but the boys reverted to their original relationship once Hooper recovered from his bout of cowardice. The most horrifying aspect of the story as far as we were concerned , was how Helena Kingshaw deliberately ignored the relationship between the two boys. Because their mutual antipathy was at variance with her view of how things ought to work out, and threatened her hopes for the future, she refused to see it. Kingshaw feels abandoned, alone and trapped. David 15th April 2006 06:07 PM I posted briefly on it in the young readers section, but I'll add a bit here. I think this is a beautifully written, dark and disturbing piece that builds up the psychology of the young boys with enormous and frightening credibility. The way in which the very ordinary world is pared down to the horrifying, isolated nightmare of Kingshaw is skilfully achieved, and I found the cool detachment of the adults in pursuit of their own agendas very convincing. The inability of adults to comprehend the world of children is at the heart of this, and it includes the reader (I would agree, Meg - this isn't a book for children; Hill has something to show us as adults), such that the nightmare isn't simply Kingshaw's, it is ours as we are brought to an awareness of the realities underpinning our cherubic little charges. The wonderful symbolism running throughout - often rooted in the animal world - helped to add a deep resonance to the emotional journey, and the changing interplay between Hooper and Kingshaw is the perfect territory of a novel, the shifts and transitions of both power and personality drawing us onwards and keeping us unsure of the resolution. As for the ending: As I wrote in the other thread, this crosses over strongly into Lord of the Flies territory for me, except that by being in the familiar world, the beast within has to operate with at least some tenuous threads of civilisation intact, which makes it different but no less unsettling. Well worth a read. Flingo 15th April 2006 06:18 PM Recommendation noted! Now on request from the Library! Hazel 15th April 2006 07:24 PM I am a huge Susan Hill fan - I'm currently rereading Strange Meeting, and weirdly have just emailed her about some missing books that I won in a competition on her website. IKOTC is a great read, very dark and terrifying. The ending is brutal and is a great shock, but I think it was a necessary ending. I find it hard to reconcile this book as a C&YA book, but I do know that a lot of students in England study it. Hill is an excellent writer and nails the finer points of writing every time. The only book of hers I haven't read is Mrs DeWinter, and I don't think I will. Ermintrude 27th April 2006 02:55 PM I was really surprised to see this book on a thread. I taught this book for GCSE English Literature examination and thought it unremmitingly dark. I think what makes it so is not just narritive content but also the language used. Her style is stark and sparse and suits her subject matter perfectly. Some years later I taught "The Woman in Black". I thought it was absolutely terrifying! Although her writing is not to my taste it is beautifully crafted. megustaleer 27th April 2006 05:01 PM That's the joy of BGO, you can start a discussion about absolutely any book! I look forward to seeing which ones you want to talk about. Welcome to BGO! David 27th April 2006 05:08 PM Indeed. It's well worth seeing the stage version, if you haven't already done so (and you may well have taken your pupils if you taught it). It is utterly brilliant - executed with just two actors (more or less!) and huge imaginative vitality. It's hard to believe that in a theatre, surrounded by lots of people, with only the most simple of stage trickery and lots of suggestion, you can be chilled to the bone with fear. This play does that! Last I saw it was on tour, so you may be able to catch it. Ermintrude 27th April 2006 05:31 PM Yes, I did see it and it was extremely frightening. The bit where the woman appears in the audience gave me goose bumps...and still does! I saw this version when I was a student, before I started teaching, then I had my first child, who was eighteen months old when I returned to work and taught this as an A' Level text. It was not until I had children that I truly understood the full terror of the novel and as a new mother I found it very disturbing. I think she taps into the fundemental fears of her readers, like all good gothic, and plays on those fears for all they're worth. It's the same with ITKOTC, as a adult the fears are loveless children, the death of a child, for a younger reader it's all to do with powerlessness, often an overwhelming to adolescents. angel 8th June 2006 01:39 AM It was reassuring to read these views. I also think the book well written and well crafted, but have avoided teaching it for GCSE. It's just too near home for many young people. They say they like to be frightened, but are more at home with a fantastic fear than a possible one. Let's face it we also have some quite depressing or serious issues in the poetry specification and there is a balance to maintain. . . Not My Business, Mid-Term Break, Nothing's Changed, A Difficult Birth, The Field Mouse, On the Train, Cold Knapp Lake, Havisham, Salome, Hitcher, The Affliction of Margaret, The Man he Killed . . . I'm the King of the Castle and Macbeth - the self-harmers in my classes begin to feel justified.
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