978-0-09-927462-9 / 0099274620

The Service Of Clouds

by Susan Hill




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About the book:

The Service of the Clouds uses the interesting device of a split narrative to tell the separate life stories of a mother and her son. Flora, the mother, has a difficult relationship with her own mother and leaves home early to work as a governess for a six-year-old boy. But, after the accidental death of the boy in her charge, she finds herself haunted her for the rest of her life as she drifts through various jobs. It is only when she accepts the help of a benevolent former employer, though, that she is able to put behind her the burdens of a failed relationship and debilitating illness to pursue her interest in art. Eventually she agrees to marry, though aware that it will be a marriage of affection and safety rather than love and passion.

The story of her son, who is a doctor, is told in between that of his mother, and though at no point do the narratives overlap, the parallels are sometimes striking. His life echoes hers through the strange awareness of death they share, and their similarly perfunctory marriages.

Hill concentrates so excessively on the internal thoughts and feelings of her characters that she up producing little more than an emotional map of their lives, which would, perhaps, work better were it not so heavily layered with mawkish sentiment. Fans may adore this novel, but others may find its laboured prose just a little bit too much. --Claire Allfree

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