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Chels & a Book

The Small Hand

The Small Hand - Susan Hill This month, I participated in my first ever Book Club read! My friend Alexis runs a casual online book club called Gin & Rhetoric and after winning a copy of this months read, I was all excited to get involved. Alexis shares my love for horror (and ultimately "The Creep Factor"), so my excitement was doubled when the book she chose was Susan Hill's THE SMALL HAND. For those who don't recognize the name, Hill is the author of THE WOMAN IN BLACK which was recently made into a film with Daniel Radcliffe. I saw the movie in theatres and though I did enjoy it, I thought that reading the book may have made it slightly scarier. Reading THE SMALL HAND, I assumed, would be like getting the chance to scare myself even more than a movie could. I was wrong. THE SMALL HAND, is more of a novella than a full length novel. At a mere 176 pages, I made the assumption that I could devour it in one sitting. Not so much. THE SMALL HAND centers around an antiquarian bookseller named Adam Snow who, after making a few wrong turns on his way home from a meeting with a client, finds himself on the property referred to as The White House. Decrepit and abandoned, Adam feels a peculiar pull to the house. As he begins to explore, he feels an innocent child hand slip into his own. Rather than feel a chill and the rise of nerves, Adam feels oddly content holding this invisible but tangible hand. While back at home, Adam is constantly thinking of the small hand: who did it belong to? Was it a ghost? Why was it gentle? Was he being haunted? Adams search to both find the origin of the small hand and the reason of why it periodically materializes in his own leads him down an exploration of his own sanity and the sanity of his brother (a former mental patient). Though the story is meant to take place in the modern day, the dialogue and writing style had me picturing the nineteenth century. Then emails would be discussed and my mental image of butler-style overcoats disappeared. Adam felt completely flat to me and nothing about the small hand actually creeped me out. Though the scenery was described with such delicate and beautiful details, I felt a constant urge to just flip to the end of all the eloquent descriptions and get to the horror! I closed the covers of the book feeling a bit disappointed but more surprised that the same woman who created such a gruesome story as THE WOMAN IN BLACK had written this light-feeling ghost story. Talking to Alexis after, we determined that our feelings about the book were mutual. Unfortunately, as far as horror novels go, I will not be giving THE SMALL HAND a round of applause.