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Susan Hill Biography

(1942– ), Gentlemen and Ladies, A Change for the Better

British novelist, short-story writer, and playwright, born in Scarborough, educated at King's College, University of London. A regular reviewer and broadcaster, her reputation as a writer was established with a series of novels displaying a powerful and versatile imagination and a gift for exploring the bonds people form between themselves, particularly within families. Gentlemen and Ladies (1968) is one of the more humorous of these, in which middle-aged Hubert manages to free himself and his mother from their long dependence on one another. In A Change for the Better (1969), the newly widowed Flora Carpenter also attempts to attain independence, by contrast with the much younger Deirdre Fount, who feels stifled by her relationship with her late mother. I'm the King of the Castle (1970; Somerset Maugham Prize, 1971) is a novel told from a child's point of view about the difficult, and finally fatal, relationship of two young boys whose lives coincide when the father of one, a widower, employs as his housekeeper the widowed mother of the other. Written from a male point of view, Strange Meeting (1972) vividly recreates the atmosphere of the trenches during the First World War in a story focusing on the love between a young subaltern and a second lieutenant. The Bird of Night (1973) also depicts a friendship between men, which is marred by madness. In the Springtime of the Year (1974) deals with the nature of loss and grief, themes echoed in Hill's frighteningly effective ghost story, The Woman in Black (1983), later adapted for stage and television. After an eight-year pause appeared Air and Angels (1991), which tells the story of an eminent middle-aged cleric's obsessive love for the enigmatic and much younger Kitty. Lyrical and complex in pattern, the novel is set in both India and England. The Mist in the Mirror (1992) is another ghost story. Mrs de Winter (1993) is Hill's much-publicized sequel to Du Maurier's Rebecca, recounting in the first person the experiences and travails of the earlier work's timid narrator. The short stories collected in The Albatross (1971), The Custodian (1972), and A Bit of Singing and Dancing (1973) reflect many of Hill's preoccupations in haunting miniature. Hill's non-fiction works include The Magic Apple Tree: A Country Year (1983) and Family (1989), both autobiographical, as well as collected essays and two illustrated books. She has also written plays for radio and television and has published several books for children.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: John Hersey Biography to Honest Man's Revenge