In the Springtime of the Year

I seem to have been reading through the seasons this year, starting with Edith Wharton’s winter read ‘Ethan Frome’ then Susan Hill’s ‘In the Springtime of the Year’ and finally Wharton’s ‘Summer’. I don’t know yet what will appear for the one season that is missing but I am open to suggestions, is there a title that comes to mind for Autumn, the Fall? I am sure one must exist.

‘In the Springtime of the Year’ is a metaphor for existence, growth and renewal; after one dreamy year of marriage in which no one else but her husband seems to exist for the young bride, 19-year-old Ruth has become a widow, after Ben is killed in a freak accident. The pages carry us through Ruth’s grief, the calm, dormant stillness where she is frozen in her grief, unable to cry or speak, or be comforted by anyone. She doesn’t understand why they don’t understand this. While her husband’s family pour out their grief vociferously, they judge her silence as showing no feeling. Slowly her awareness returns and rises to the surface, she begins to see beyond her own immovable pain, to appreciate anew all that is around her, she is able to revisit the scene without suffering.

Susan Hill deftly captures each nuance of the young girl’s slow changing movement through her phases of grief, until like the branches of the tree that must eventually bud no matter how harsh the winter, she transforms and begins to emit a different vibe. She is witness to what she was and sees it anew; she develops an understanding for how others may have perceived her. She is able to make amends.

Rambling along in its quiet way, poetic line by line, Ruth’s perceptions change so subtly that when there is an actual event, it seems all the more dramatic for its contrast with the inner world we have been languishing within.

I first read of Susan Hill in a profile interview in Mslexia Magazine in January 2011, she had just published ‘A Kind Man’ and while visiting Daunt Books in London that same month, I spotted the slim hardback, which thanks to the lovely G and an approaching birthday came home with me along with Jenny Erpenbeck’sVisitation’. Since ‘A Kind Man’ I have equally enjoyed ‘The Beacon’ and ‘The Woman in Black’ and recognise that it is her style of writing that appeals so much.  This book was originally published in 1974 and has been rereleased in this Vintage edition.

All the books are situated similarly, in a small, poor village in rural England where not much happens except that we become witness to the inner transformation of characters after an event.  I would not suggest you read this however, if you’re looking for action, pace or plot, this is an inner journey. And it’s perfect as it is.

30 thoughts on “In the Springtime of the Year

    • The three I have read (not including ‘The Woman in Black’) are not ghost stories but for me were all wonderful reads, they all have a depth that really makes you feel what the characters experience and continue thinking about what they are facing long after finishing reading.


  1. I’ve not read a lot of Edith wharton just two the Buccaneers and The Age of Innocence but Ethan Frome is definitely on my list TBR list, along with a few others. As for Susan hill I haven’t read her and she will be also going on my TBR list. It sounds as if her writing is quite the beauty of literature. Love your blog because I’m discovering so many new titles and writers. Thanks for that! 🙂


  2. You’ve put Susan Hill on my radar. I love quiet little gems about the turmoils within. I will make a note of this title…or, actually, which of the three Hill novels you’ve read would you recommend as the best entry point?

    As for books fitting your seasons theme, I would suggest The Fall by Camus as one of my all-time favorites, but the title does not refer to the season as, I am sure, you well know (La Chute in the original French). The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell fits the bill but, while good, is my least favorite of the four Mitchell novels I have read.

    Not being able to think of many, I did a little searching out of curiosity. There are some interesting possibilities:

    Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym
    The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    Snow in Autumn by Irene Nemirovsky

    Of these, the last has snagged my most earnest interest. It’s not much more than a short story (45 pages), but it sounds excellent at The Complete Review. I like your seasons cycle.


    • Thank you for the recommendations, excellent, I should really read Camus not just because I never have, but because I am trying to increase the number of French authors I read, I have read 2 more Nemirovsky books this year, so would love to add that one to the list and thanks for the reminder of Mitchell, I loved ‘Black Swan Green’ and have this one on the shelf. I am sure you will enjoy Susan Hill if you love the quiet little gems, she does those very well.


    • And creating fictional inner journey’s like this, just astounding. Interesting as well, I recall Susan Hill encouraging writers in her interview to ‘write what you don’t know’, sign of a prolific and active imagination, I am sure.


  3. I really love how you link books and essays, past reading with current reading. I nominiated you for a Kreativ Blogger Award because you always stay so true to who you are. Thank you.


    • I hope you will give her a try, she seems to have been quietly working away producing wonderful work without much fuss, but thanks to recent coverage and due to the adaptation of ‘The Woman in Black’ to film, we are seeing more of her work being highlighted.


  4. Fantastic, another Susan Hill book that i haven’t read. I to have read The Woman in Black and The Beacon, as well as The Mist in the Mirror, but I will definately go and seek this out. I always like it when your work inspires me to go buy!


    • Wonderful, love to inspire a purchase! I can’t resist Susan Hill now I have discovered her and this was an unexpected surprise in the bookshop, a rerelease and such a captivating inner journey and transformation. Enjoy 🙂


  5. I have not read Susan Hill’s work – yet, but I’ll make a note. I am such an emotional reader – mood dictates my reading. Never know where I will end up. I’m reading The Long Goodbye right now and completely smitten with Chandler’s voice. If you not a lover of gritty PI novels, make the exception for the language. In any event, I am always looking for a writer who delights me with their use of language. Thanks, Claire.


    • Language comes first for me definitely, and when it’s lacking, no matter how compelling the story I can’t lose myself in it. Your use of language definitely works for me Brenda, so thank you for the recommendation, if you are smitten with the voice then I know its one whose notes I wish to hear.


  6. Amazing review Claire. The story sounds so tragic though, I guess it is all about changing and growing as a person though. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂


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  10. This is already talking to me, Claire. Thank you for this review. I love your choices. I adore the ones you read. Thank you!

    PS: We have Ali Smith’s ‘Autumn’ now. 🙂


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