Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Beacon by Susan Hill


DATE READ: June 2011

NOTES: A well-crafted novella that creates the atmosphere of a northern farmhouse and the somewhat dysfunctional family living there. It began well with some good characterisations and interesting plotting. An unprepared and unsupported May Prime goes off to university in London but suffers from mental problems and returns home after a year. This episode rings true – especially the way in which there seems to be no support system for May either at university or at home.

The central theme of the book is the rift in the family caused by the second son Frank. We have to wait a long time to find out the cause and when it emerges it raised some questions. If Frank had decided to break with the family why would he have taken photographs from his childhood with him? I don’t want to give away the plot but surely newspaper reporters would have approached the Prime family for their side of the story….

There are ambiguities in the family and hints of hidden memories. The way in which The Beacon was written made it a gripping read but was ultimately unsatisfactory – especially the ending which was really a bit feeble.

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