Set back from the turmoil of the 1970s, the author of The Woman In Black triumphs with another chilling classic – this time on the devastating consequences of parental blindness.
Name: I’m The King Of The Castle
Author: Susan Hill
One of my New Years Resolutions (which you can find here!) is to read more classics, which is part of why I picked up Susan Hill’s I’m The King Of The Castle. The other reason? I loved The Woman In Black and similarly in this book, her writing style doesn’t disappoint.
Reflecting the political coldness of the decade and the parental coldness of Mrs Kingshaw and Mr Hooper, Hill’s writing is what made the book for me. It’s quite stark. Abrupt. But there are also passages of beautiful pastoral description where we really feel the calm that Kingshaw gets from being amongst nature. When he travels into the woods, I could vividly imagine the little birds and the rushing water and the tall, tall trees. It’s a powerful skill.
Of course, this is also turned on its head when Hill transmits fluently Kingshaw’s claustrophobia. I read this book incredibly quickly because I felt so immersed in their world. The stifling atmosphere of the house and the parental blindness – it made you want to scream.
I found I’m The King Of The Castle a very frustrating book… but because of how well written it is. It focuses on the pressing, seesawing relationship between two young boys; for whom power dynamics are like quicksand. However, more often than not, Kingshaw is the one sinking down and Hooper rises above… to become the King Of The Castle. (It’s okay, you can laugh). But I wasn’t expecting the raw emotion and terror that Hill squeezes out of such mundane situations. Kingshaw is angry. I’m angry. The hate is palpable.
As for the universalism of the book, I’m not sure. It definitely depicts a unique situation. But, I think that everyone can identify with some parts of the story: the childhood isolation or bullying or being misunderstood by a parent. I loved how the inner thoughts of all the characters were shown near the start of the book because it highlighted how situation can be so easily misunderstood. But after Kingshaw entered the woods, there are fewer other characters’ perspective and it became closer and claustrophobic. Stifling. All leading up to the final scene.
What did you think about the ending? To some extent, it was almost inevitable. However, it was still a shock for me. I don’t think I’ve ever hated, truly hated, characters more than I have with this book. Susan Hill’s penchant for using powerful description to create chilling stories triumphs again.
Have you read I’m The King Of The Castle? Or any of Susan Hill’s other books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!