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Posted: March 20, 2022

A meaningful discovery of personal values

Book Review

By Derryll White

Hill, Susan (2014).  The Soul of Discretion.

“Endings matter, not just for the person, perhaps even more, for the one’s left behind.”

-Atul Gawande

Susan Hill is one of those writers who captures a reader instantly.  She is careful, precise and her scenes are just enough off the normal that one immediately says, “what’s going on here?”  It might be an irritating budgie or a naked screaming child who might or might not exist.  Whatever, Susan Hill sets the hook and has the reader for the duration.

This is a dark story – Hill despairs with regard to Britain’s declining public health care, forcing Dr. Deerbon to re-evaluate her commitment to the National Health Service.  At the same time the doctor’s brother, DC Simon Serrailler goes undercover to try and eradicate an effective paedophile ring that is preying on the youngest and most vulnerable.  Throw in unconscionable rape and the effects of that on a, until the assault, secure and vibrant woman.

Susan Hill takes the reader down a number of paths, all loaded with social responsibility and personal questions to be discovered.  A comfortable read?  No!  But a meaningful discovery of personal values – most certainly Susan Hill remains among the best of today’s novelists.


Excerpts from the novel:

MASONS – “I don’t think so.”  But Tim had seen someone across the room – networking, obviously.  That’s what the masons were all about, networking, mutual backscratching.  Oh, and charity, of course.  There would be the usual, amazing raffle, in which Shelley had once won a Balenciaga handbag.  All for charity – Masonic charity, naturally.

DOCTORING – She had started doing locum surgeries a few months earlier, when her finances had taken a further nose-dive and her role at the hospice had been downgraded.  There was nothing else she could do, there was plenty of locum work, and she took everything she could get.  It was well paid, but it was also very unsatisfying.  She understood the complaints of a patient like this one, with chronic problems.  He wanted and was entitled to have, an ongoing relationship with one GP, though he could not be guaranteed to see that doctor in an emergency.   With a locum, he had to start again, detailing his symptoms and the history of his illness, waiting as Cat tried to absorb a screenful of complex notes.

DEATH – “When people had a faith, they accepted death – it was part of the whole business, if you know what I mean.  But now everyone is afraid to look stupid, gullible, they believe death  is the end, so anyone who starts to talk about an afterlife, or anything spiritual, is automatically deluded or deranged, or indulging in fairy tales.  And if you think death is a big black nothing, you probably prefer not to discuss it, I suppose.  People have their own beliefs but it isn’t right to dismiss everyone who has other options, is it?”

RELIGION – “I’ve got this position, Elaine – I got to it a year or so after my husband died – that if you try to follow the essential teaching then that’s got to be a good way to live, and besides, I love the Church of England.  I love the services and the language and the music and the prayers.  I love the traditions, I love our cathedral … that sustains me as much as anything.  And I decided to go on loving them and believing because of the way I’m sustained by it all – and if I’m wrong, well, I shan’t know anyway.  None of us will.  But meanwhile, it’s given a point and a purpose to life and made it better,  It’s religion twisted by men to back up their own desires which has caused so much harm, don’t you think?  I haven’t much to say in support of the Crusades.”

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at

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