Susan Hill is appearing at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writers Festival this July. Although I’ve seen the film of Woman in Black, I’ve never read any of her books so picked this as one of her earliest.
Hooper lives with his Father in a big house they moved into after the death of his Grandfather. His father then employs a housekeeper who brings her son Kingshaw with her. The two boys are expected to become friends and are left to their own devices by two parents who are more interested in their own relationship than how their offspring are getting on. Hooper is a bully, and he makes Kingshaw his target.
This was a disturbing tale of children’s relationships. It’s often the case that people think just because children are the same age they should be friends without any thought to their own individual personalities. As this book shows that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I found that this book seemed a little slow to start with as the writing is quite descriptive but with hindsight this made the story even more evocative. The story gave a good portrayal of how children can act with one another. It’s not about violence as much as the taunting and the name calling. The fear of bullying often comes from what might happen rather than what actually happens. Although Hooper is the bully, and Kingshaw the victim you get a sense of loneliness and desperation from both of them. This is exacerbated by the fact their parents barely acknowledge them other than to try and force them to be friends. Throughout the book there is a sense of doom that builds up until the very last explosive scene.
I enjoyed this book, and found it quite thought provoking especially after the last scene. Susan Hill is special guest on the Friday night at the festival and it will be interesting to hear her talk. I’d definitely like to try and read some of her crime novels before the event to see how they differ from her stand alone works.