Philip Womack

Miracle Worker

A Kind Man

By

Chatto and Windus 185pp £10.99 order from our bookshop

The intervention of the miraculous into the everyday is Susan Hill’s subject matter in this lyrical novella. Her setting, evoked with precision and élan, is an unspecified industrial town, the inhabitants of which toil and breed in the looming shadows of the factories that sustain them. They deal with layoffs, malaise and deaths, bearing it all with fortitude, and none more so than Eve’s family. Eve is a gentle girl, although she can harbour passionate feelings, as when her sister is married off to a boneheaded lunk, and Eve, notwithstanding said lunkishness, burns with envy as she can’t bear to think that she’ll be left behind, a spinster, with her mother. But then fate, in the form of Tommy Carr – the kind man of the title – enters her life when he rescues a package she accidentally drops into a canal. Eve almost believes that she has willed him into existence. This sense of providence, of a controlling intelligence, seems right in a book that is so carefully formed.

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