At the far end of the long white gallery is a painting of a woman, in pale flowing clothes and lying on a sofa beside an open window. The muslin curtains billow out towards her like clouds. There is a touch of brilliant red, the ribbon on her hat. The rest is the white, cream, palest grey. It is a painting which leads Flora on, beckoning her away from her childhood, her complaining, clinging mother, pert younger sister, and the confines of a small community, to a pround and self-reliant future. But later, its image is to prove the catalyst for the most significant event in her life. Isolation, separation, solitude, betrayal. The shocks of life. The consolations and the beauty of death. A few piercing moments of absolute joy and perfect understanding. THE SERVICE OF CLOUDS is about these things, and also about love, loyalty, friendship, growing up and growing old.
Susan Hill is an award-winning novelist. She wrote Mrs de Winter, the bestselling sequel to Rebecca, and the ghost story The Woman in Black, which was adapted for the stage and became a great success in the West End. Her books include a collection of exquisite short stories, The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read, and the highly successful crime novel series about the detective Simon Serrailler.