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’s ‘Visitation’. 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.