All alone in the world
LISTENING TO THE ORCHESTRA and other stories by Susan Hill Long Barn Books pounds 3.99
Sunday 15 December 1996
The richness lies in the texture of the stories themselves. Each is perfectly formed - almost so perfectly, in fact, that they would seem over-careful were it not for their undeniable emotional impact. And they form a neatly varied quartet, variations on the theme of piercing loneliness. The first, the title story, has an Anita Brookner-esque heroine shifted several rungs down the social scale, skivvying in a desolate seaside hotel in winter, where "the loneliness was like a crater in the ground, and she had fallen to the bottom of it. She clawed at the sides sometimes, seeing figures moving about above, and they would see her and look curiously down. But when she looked away again, and moved, she lost her hold and fell back, fingernails ripped and bleeding. Or that was how she dreamed it sometimes, in a waking dream."
A child on her regular outing with a blind uncle witnesses the small, appalling death of his dignity; a young girl in an Irish village feels the drudgery that imprisoned her mother close round her, too, like a steel snare; in a cold, remote Eastern European city two lonely people fail to connect. But in each of these almost unbearably poignant, intricately crafted fictions there is a small twist that brings - well, hardly a ray of hope, but a hint that even the most desolate life contains a gleam of possibility. This is the art of the short story raised to a very high pitch.
! ISBN 0-9528285-0-2. Long Barn Books is at Ebrington, Gloucestershire GL55 6NW
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees