118. The Beacon by Susan Hill

The Beacon by Susan Hill

Pages: 154
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 1 2009
First Published: May 11, '09 (UK/Can) Nov. 24,'09 (US)
Genre: novella, literary fiction
Rating: 3.5/5 (If I gave 1/4 points, which I don't, I'd give it 3.75/5)

First sentence:

May Prime had been with her mother all afternoon, sitting in the cane chair a few feet away from the bed, but suddenly at seven o'clock she had jumped up and run out of the house and into the yard and stood staring at the gathering sky because she could not bear the dying a second longer.

Reason for Reading: I have tried (and enjoy) the author's mystery series and wanted to try some of her fiction. I received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Comments: With a novella one can't say much about the plot without telling the whole story. So briefly. Set in the "North Country" of England a family of four children grew up in the fifties on a farm far from any neighbors but with a little village close enough by. After they've all grown, one of the boys leaves the area for good never to return. This book examines how that effects those left behind, while it examines their past and their present especially through the eyes of May, the eldest daughter.

Beautifully written in stark language. This is a desolate story full of atmosphere to match. It actually has a Gothic feel with the lonely farmhouse, named The Beacon, and the silence inside as it contains May and her dying mother, then May and her mother's body and finally May on her own. I enjoyed the process of reading this but as often happens with books so short I wanted more. I really wanted to know more about May, but I think that was the whole point of the story. Right from the beginning we are aware that their is a secret and then in my mind I felt as if their were two secrets and only one of them is revealed. The final ending has me stumped. I'm not sure I understand it all. Oh, I have some ideas and one that pervades is it tells the answer to the second secret but it's not what I suspected. I'll be thinking about this for a while.

Susan Hill fans will definitely want to read this, but if you haven't read the author before it's best not to start with this ambiguous story.

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