The Savidge Reads Hall of Fame… Susan Hill

Time to introduce my second author into the rather grandly titled, even though it’s not, Savidge Reads Hall of Fame. Susan Hill is an author I have only been reading a little bit longer than I have been blogging, her first Simon Serrailler crime novel was actually my first post and set of book thoughts ever posted on the blog though it wasn’t the first that I had read of hers. Over the last seven or eight years I have been bowled over by how prolific and diverse a writer Susan Hill is, though I think I might be a little bit scared of her if I had the pleasure of meeting her in real life, and so she has become one of my favourite authors – and I still have lots of her books yet to read.

The first book I read by her was‘The Woman in Black’ all those years ago in 2003 believe it or not.

The reason that I initially read her was…  I had been to see ‘The Woman in Black’ for the first time at the theatre for a journalist press trip for a spooky Halloween feature and was completely spellbound (and absolutely petrified) and so I wanted to read the book behind the play and I loved it as much if not more. The rest, as they say, is history.

The reason that she has become one of my favourite authors, and I would recommend them, is… I think it would be the diverse nature of Susan Hill’s work, and I am aware with books like ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ ahead of me there is more to come. You have the wonderful Simon Serrailler series (another SS, always a fan of those ha) which fall under the crime genre, so thrill and have pace, and yet also give a real insight into the human condition. You also have her wonderfully atmospheric ghost stories and of course a huge diverse range of literary novels and short story collections, what more could you ask for in a favourite author. I also like the fact they all have a sense of darkness to them, or the ones I have read so far have had anyway. Am I allowed to say that whilst sometimes I may not agree with what she says I do love the fact that she is outspoken, I bet she is fascinating to have a chat with.

My favourite of her novels so far has been… Probably ‘The Woman in Black’ so far but I really like the Simon Serrailler series, even if I did have a bumpy start with them. I must also mention her non-fiction Howard’s End is on the Landing’ which is a wonderful, wonderful book about books, the power they have and the joy they are, writing and being a bit of a book hoarder if we are honest (no offense Susan, the best of us are I believe). You can also see when I reviewed it Susan left a lovely comment, we haven’t met up for tea and cakes yet though, ha!

If there was one of her works I had a wobble with, it would have to be… I gave up on the first Serrailler novel ‘The Various Haunts of Men’ the first time I tried it as I felt I was getting anything but a murder (nearly 100 pages in and no murder had been done) and that was what I wanted reading wise at the time. The second time though I came back to it with the knowledge that you get more than just murder and crime with the series. That said I almost fell out with them again at the end of ‘The Pure in Heart’ because of the ending which almost made me throw the book across the room (and I think that is why I didn’t write about it on here)… however in hindsight, and after calming down, I thought it was very clever. I can’t say why though for spoilers.

The most recent one of her novels that I read was… ‘Dolly’, her latest ghost story which I reviewed yesterday, and I think it is probably my second favourite of her ghost stories. It has that slight Victorian/Edwardian feeling about it and the ghostly tales of old. Wonderful autumnal night reading.

The next of Susan Hill’s works I am planning on reading is… Really it should be ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ because I don’t think you are meant to call yourself a Susan Hill fan if you haven’t read it, though I have to say that I might give her third novel ‘Gentlemen and Ladies’ a try soon. It is the oldest of her novels I have, though if anyone would like to buy me a copy of her debut novel ‘The Enclosure’ for the bargain price of around £100 that would go to the top of my TBR without hesitation. Actually all that said I am very behind with the Simon Serrailler series so maybe ‘The Shadows in the Street’ next?

What I would love her to do next is… If I could get Susan Hill to write anything next it would have to be a massive doorstop of a Victorian sensation novel with all the mystery, murder, ghostly revenge and asylums you could wish for. That, I think, would be amazing.

You can see a full list of Susan Hill’s works on the Savidge Reads Hall of Fame page, a special page on the blog especially for my favourite authors and links to the books of theirs I have read and reviewed and the ones I haven’t as yet. This will encourage me to read all the books by my favourite authors and may lead you to some new authors if you like most of the ones that I like, if that makes sense. There are some rules though, but you can find more of those on the Hall of Fame page.

So who else is a Susan Hill fan? Which of her novels have you read and loved? Are you a Serrailler, literary or spooky Susan Hill fan, or like me a fan of all three?

28 Comments

Filed under Savidge Reads Hall of Fame, Susan Hill

28 responses to “The Savidge Reads Hall of Fame… Susan Hill

  1. Ann Bradley

    Susan Hill fan here! First discovered her work with The various haunts of men and continued with Serrailler from there. Have to say though, can become a bit familiar when you read one after another in the series…know what to expect. I have become to know what to expect from Peter James in the same way! Susan Hill’s A kind man is a gentle little tale I would recommend.

    • Hello fellow Susan Hill fan Ann (ooh that was very nearly a lovely rhyme), lovely to hear from you. I think any series gets a bit familiar if you read them too much in succession though this is something I don’t need to get worried about as I have gotten very behind with them, though I do think the time of year is perfect for a good murder mystery, and her dark look at the human condition.

  2. David

    I’ve only read three of her books and I have to say, I have a mixed opinion of her. I think she writes beautifully – really naturalistic, unfussy prose with great insight into what makes people tick. But (and maybe this is down to the three I’ve chosen to read) I don’t like the supernatural elements she works into her books – I just don’t find it convincing. I thought ‘A Kind Man’ started so well but then she got into the ‘healing’ stuff and making it into a moral parable kind of thing and I just couldn’t believe in it.
    Likewise ‘The Woman in Black’: wonderfully atmospheric and a great sense of place but it starts with a man decrying his step-children’s fireside ghost stories (they don’t know what real terror is etc.), except his terrible story which Hill has thus set up to be truly terrifying is as run-of-the-mill and predictable as anything the step-children were telling and much as I wanted it to be frightening it simply isn’t. Of the three I much preferred ‘The Beacon’ which was more grounded in reality and yet pulled off a nice twist ending that had me questioning everything that had gone before it.

    I may read more by her (though I shall probably avoid any more of her ghost stories!) and have a copy of “The Service of Clouds” somewhere. Though to be honest at the moment I’m still put off her a bit because of the author herself: her childishly provocative and occasionally offensive comments on the old Booker forum irritated, and she seems so very opinionated and close-minded in those of her tweets I’ve read (mind you I think the nature of Twitter makes most people sound abrupt and like they’ve got out of the wrong side of bed, so I’m perhaps being unfair).

    • Ann Bradley

      I agree totally David. I too, although a fan,find her tweets rather abrasive at times…

      • I can see why people think that, oddly she is one of the few authors where I don’t mind it. She can also be lovely, she sent me a lovely tweet about the review of Dolly I wrote yesterday which I was delighted to get.

    • I think the no mucking about aspects of both her writing and her opinions is part and parcel of why I like her. No, I don’t always agree with her, and sometimes completely disagree, but I like the fact she’s passionate and doesn’t hold back. I also think that you are right Twitter can make you seem much blunter.

      I think if you are after the more literary novels then you should try ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ which is now a text in schools or ‘In the Springtime of the Year’ which I’ve heard is meant to be incredible.

      • David

        Yes, I do fancy trying ‘I’m the King of the Castle’. And although I’m not normally one for detective/crime fiction do wonder if I might like her Serrailler novels as, like I said, I think she does atmosphere very well and really understands people’s motivations and can pull off a good twist.

        Reading back that previous comment of mine I sound a bit opinionated about her myself – apologies if it came across that way or as being rude🙂

      • I am probably going to give King of the Castle a whirl in the new year at some point, though I also want to read Springtime of the Year in the erm, Springtime hahaha.

  3. No I’m not a fan unfortunately. I didn’t really get ‘The Woman in Black’, but am very much looking forward to seeing the stage version.

  4. Laura Caldwell

    Is it possible that you could borrow “The Encounter” from a library?

  5. david73277

    I’m a big fan of the Serailler series. I have just finished the latest of those. Yes, they can be a bit predictable in some respects, but then I don’t read them looking for a puzzling mystery. What has really got me hooked is the atmosphere of the fictional cathedral city, combined with the continuing saga of Serailler’s personal and family life. He often behaves very badly towards the women with whom he is romantically involved and yet, in my opinion at least, he remains a character I can feel sympathetic towards.

    • I must get a wriggle on and bring myself up to speed with the series. I have them all, I am just about three behind, or possibly even four. I will pack one to take to Grans with me next week and see if I can fit it in.

      I really like the city as you say, but I also like how she uses them to look at the human condition.

  6. Not a fan really. I don’t find her spooky books at all spooky, or chilling, in fact I don’t even feel the atmosphere she tries to create. The last book I read was The Small Hand and I was on page 140 something before something actually happened, and it was all a bit meh to be honest, the ending was a huge dissapoinment… I find her writing all very lovely, lovely and sometimes overly descriptive and yet nothing ever comes of it. The Woman in Black, all the way through I was like ‘oh please, c’mon give me something’ I did see the stage version, which was ok….

    I’ve plodded through quite a few of her books, and I won’t read another one. I think she definitely is marmite, and judging by ratings etc on Goodreads I agree with some of the comments above, sadly.

  7. I read The Woman in Black at school and then re-read it a couple of years ago and loved it. I’ve read a few of her spooky ones since and really enjoyed them, and have one of the crime novels to try in my to-be-read pile. Look forward to reading more of her stuff having read this post!

    • I think she is great, though as you can see from the comments it appears she can be a bit of a marmite author. I have yet to dislike any of her books. Some I don’t love as much as others (lets not mention Battle for Gullywith, which to be fair I wasn’t the market it was intended for) but overall I think she is a wonderful author.

  8. great selection Simon I ve only read the one about books she read by her so far ,all the best stu

  9. I have only read Howard’s End is on the Landing and absolutely loved it. Really fired me up to see what was on my own shelves to dive into for the first time and sometimes the second time. Will keep her other books in mind.

  10. I only started reading her last year after reading a wonderful interview in Mslexia magazine and then on a visit to London picked up the gorgeous hardback copy of her then newly released A Kind Man which I loved and have since then read The Beacon, The Woman in Black and In the Springtime of the Year all of which I adore, not just for the story telling, but for her style of engaging the reader with each character, so nuanced and considered and subtle and utterly compelling. She’s become a favourite for me.

    • Hoorah, am pleased to find another Hill-lite hahaha. I have yet to read Springtime of the Year but I do really want to read that one next, and I have had A Kind Man on the TBR since release and been meaning to read it!

      • Am heartened to know you have two such delightful books yet to savour, close at hand, that’s such a good feeling, something to savour. I’m really looking forward to reading Howard’s End is on the Landing, it sounds like a blog in book form.🙂 You should add The Beacon to your Susan Hill list for sure, would be interested to see the discussion it provokes, bit of a moral dilemma, always makes for a great debate.

  11. I love Susan Hill, and although I loved The Woman in Black, the one that sealed the deal for me was The Magic Apple Tree (a battered version I spied in Oxfam in Liverpool). Really lovely book. I have The Small Hand and Howard’s End is on The Landing on the TBR pile and look forward to catching up with your thoughts on those.

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