At the far end of the long white gallery is a painting of a women, 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 proud and self-reliant future. But later, its image is to prove the catalyst for the most signicant 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 a bout love, loyalty, friendship, growing up and growing old.
Susan Hill was born in Scarborough and educated at King's College, London. Her novels include Gentleman and Ladies, I'm the King of the Castle, Strange Meeting, The Bird of Night, A Bit of Singing and Dancing, In the Springtime of the Year, The Woman in Black, Air and Angels, The Mist in the Mirror and Mrs de Winter. The Woman in Black has been adapted for the stage and has been running in the West End since 1988. Her children's books include Can It Be True?, The Glass Angels and King of Kings. Susan Hill lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, the Shakespeare scholar, Stanley Wells, from where she runs her small publishing company, Long Barn Books.