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Black Sheep by Susan Hill

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This is one of Susan Hill’s stark, ‘bare’ books, tautly written with little elaboration, plenty of suspense, no unnecessary words and a pretty powerful ending. It is a fast read for two main reasons. One, it is short, and two, you can’t put it down. It tells of a family of Welsh coal miners in the 1940s when,without question, son followed father down the pits. Our family has four sons and one daughter. The youngest son rebels against the system and becomes a sheep farmer, the daughter marries a pit manager. You’d think life would be good but then the tale would be dull. This, as with so many of Susan Hill’s books, is a small jewel.

If you like Susan Hill you might also like to read books by Elizabeth George, P J Tracy and Andrew Taylor.

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. In Mount of Zeal, a mining village, the Howker family – husband and sons – work in the pit, while mother Evie runs the house, her endless round of cooking, cleaning and washing dictated by the menfolk and their shifts. But then there are her ‘misfits’ – daughter, Rose, who pays little heed to convention, and son, Ted, for whom life underground is too much to contemplate. As Ted finds his own way in the world, events take a dramatic turn that will change the Howker household forever. A masterpiece of economy and control.
~ The Good Book Guide

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Black Sheep by Susan Hill

The village is called Mount of Zeal. It's built in a bowl like an amphitheatre, with the winding gear where the stage would be. The pit lies below. Ted Howker's school is on the edge of Lower Terrace next to the chapel. Upper Terrace - in a thunderous echo of the Bible so loved by Ted's grandfather - is Paradise. Ted and his father and his brothers live in Middle. In the beginning: a household of men, all of whom work in the pit...Susan Hill is an exceptional writer at the height of her powers. Every word is precisely right: the descriptions of the village and the pit, the people and the farm are exact and true; the heartbreak is inevitable yet new; and the imagery and imagination take your breath away.

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This is a story of people living hard lives, narrow lives which nevertheless have their own dignity. It is beautifully, even lovingly, told, with not a superfluous word... Characters are sketched in a couple of sentences, and fixed in your imagination. Manner is perfectly matched with matter; it's impossible to suppose that the story could be better told -- Alan Massie Scotsman gripping all the way to its unexpected end -- Matthew Dennison The Times a perfectly judged story of people living hard, narrow lives Observer A very slender novella, but one in which Susan Hill deploys her not inconsiderable power to weave a haunting story -- Victoria Moore Daily Mail Hill's beautiful, soulful descriptions of pit village life make this every bit as gripping as her longer spine-chilling stories Sunday Mirror In this taught, tense story, written with that unsparing economy which is such a feature of Hill's recent fiction, everyone longs to escape... Ted is thoughtful, compassionate, loving and misguidedly chivalrous... The sparseness of Hill's style provides the perfect medium for exploring his predicament East Anglian Daily Times As always with Susan Hill the scene-setting in Black Sheep is superb. Expect to read those final pages with your eyes half-closed because Susan Hill doesn't flinch from her purpose, and then expect to be haunted by that final moment for days to come most certainly...probably years Dove Grey Reader Hill's taut prose exudes a constant darkness... you are left unsettled and haunted by the seeming inevitability of their troubled lives Stylist

About the Author

Susan Hill

Susan Hill has won both the Whitbread and Somerset Maugham Awards and been shortlisted for the Booker. She is the subject of one of the Vintage Living Texts. She runs her own publishing business, Longbarn Books, and edited the literary magazine, Books and Company. Her novels are set for GCSE and A Level, and her play, The Woman in Black, has been running in London's West End for 15 years.

In 2011 Susan Hill was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library, awarded to an author for a body of work.

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Book Info

Publication date

24th October 2013


Susan Hill

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Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage Publishing


144 pages


Thriller / Suspense
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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