Saturday, July 21, 2018

Book Review: Jacob's Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill

Jacob's Room is Full of Books: A Year of ReadingJacob's Room is Full of Books: A Year of Reading by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Own.

I've enjoyed Hill's memoirs, although my favorite is, I think, The Magic Apple Tree. These bookish ones are both very readable and she mixes in so many ideas from the world at large.

This one, based on a year of reading, is interesting from its solitude. She remembers times and places from before, she is in places but never with anyone other than the books, pets, or strangers - the man on the beach who points out the finch. There is a odd detachment from people. Her observations of the natural world stand out here and her obvious enjoyment of nature lore and especially of the birds.

As an educator, I found her regular contemplations on why we read, why some love to read, why some write in certain ways, and how we engage with ideas very interesting. Her thoughts on things learned by heart were heartening - especially as she references a poem my children have learned (and therefore I have learned) and I recognized it before she revealed it. Her obvious interest in inspiration and where the stories come from is a repeated refrain. The influence of other writers on tone and style and writing is another. How do we learn these things and use them rightly or wrongly.

It's interesting to me as she doesn't care for Austen - who I love - or Pym - who's work I've enjoyed when I could find any - but I'm fascinated by her other opinions even when I've not heard of many of the authors or characters of her life.

I started reading this in January and was trying to keep up month by month. That was good, but I found myself losing threads that she weaves by taking so much time between. It is the kind of book that you can read in the small places of life - browning the beef or half-time at a soccer game (er, football match), but for all that it does take some consistent small places. And, so, I ended up reading it pretty straight through. I notice that the writing changes with the season. The excessively hot holiday in France in September sounds and feels different than December and the cozy days between Christmas and the New Year.

If you like books on books and the reading and writing life, this and Howard's End is on the Landing are books to read. I enjoyed them but find myself hesitant to recommend them while I loved The Magic Apple Tree and recommend it often.


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