Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Inter-Library Loan because my library doesn't have it. I wish I owned it, wish I could even get it on Kindle.
I loved this book from the beginning, or even from before starting it. I loved her Magic Apple Tree which I read earlier in 2014 and was excited to start. Her writing is down-to-earth and straightforward while being crisp and light and amused. She isn't self-deprecating yet doesn't hide her weaknesses either.
She name drops other authors matter-of-factly; she has met these people and they influenced her and her reading and her writing. It isn't egregious or self-proclamatory. Many are her friends and it is clear that they have a relationship beyond the page. Hill makes her reader feel like they have a relationship with her beyond the page.
Hill has written a book about reading books that are on her shelves and transitions to the idea of what 40 books would she need for the rest of her lifetime. It is an intriguing list, I may need to become acquainted with it. She doesn't so much recommend books as write about their influence and her relationship with them until the reader wants to read them too.
I loved the beginning of this book, got a bit bogged down in the middle (thus the 4 stars) and loved the end. Her journey through her shelves brought me to beloved friends, distant acquaintances, and complete strangers. I must admit that the strangers were where I bogged down. Her lack of love for Jane Austen seemed perfectly reasonable for her (yet completely incomprehensible for me!) At least she tried.
Her chapter on The Bible and The Book of Common Prayer and her chapter on reading real live books - as much as I love my Kindle - resonated with me. I quoted the passage on annotations. Her chapter on children's books - and Roald Dahl in particular - is lovely and generous to children.
And, can I just say again?, her writing is so perfectly suited to this kind of book. It was a wonderful read. It makes one want to write and write well. It almost wants me to read some of her thrillers, a genre I generally avoid (as much as I love whodunit murder mysteries). I have all kinds of corners folded to note in my commonplace book. There are all kinds of books I want to read. Lists of authors to try.
As a reader, I would commend this - particularly to readers of British books and authors.
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