(British, 1942– )
Susan Hill's work is characterized by a deeply serious, often bleak view of life. Expert at building tension and evoking atmosphere, she approaches her withdrawn, interior characters with insight and sensitivity, revealing them through quiet, measured prose and tense, sometimes almost stylized dialogue.
Air and Angels (1991) is a good starting-point. Containing some of her finest writing, its subject is a celibate Cambridge don who falls obsessively in love with a young girl. Tragedy and joy are two sides of the same coin in this book, something Hill captures with typical subtlety. It is partly set in the marshlands of East Anglia, an area she knows well and returns to again and again, notably in The Woman in Black (1983), which has been adapted for both stage and television. The tale of haunted Eel Marsh House successfully re-creates the feel of a classic Victorian ghost story, a genre she revisits in The Mist in the Mirror (1992). In the Springtime of the Year (1974) deals with bereavement, as does I'm the King of the Castle (1970), which won the Somerset Maugham Award. Too pessimistic for some, this powerful book concentrates on childhood cruelty and suicide. Less successful is Mrs de Winter (1993), a somewhat contrived sequel to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Susan Hill has also written short stories and radio plays, two volumes of autobiography, and children's books.
Penelope Lively, William Trevor, Penelope Fitzgerald. See SUPERNATURAL CB