Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

I requested this book from the library because I had read about it on the internet and it sounded interesting to me.

Susan Hill suffers from the same problem that I have which is that I often spend a lot of time looking for a particular book. I always think that I know exactly where it is and I’m sure I saw it only a few days ago, but it doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

Whilst looking for that book she discovered books that she had forgotten about and others that she didn’t even know that she owned. There were hundreds of such volumes and she decided that she needed to re-acquaint herself with her own books. To that end, she decided that for a whole year she wouldn’t buy any new books and would only read those that she already owned, unless it was a book which a publisher sent to her for reviewing purposes or something which she needed to read for research.

The whole book is very chatty, for instance early on she discusses her favourite print fonts which was exactly what my family and I had been talking about just a few days before, my favourites are Johnston (the London Underground) and Gill Sans (the BBC). Admittedly, their father did think we were being a bit strange.

Sickeningly, Susan Hill had her first novel published when she was only 18 and still at school but as a consequence she has come into contact with a lot of authors over the years; publishing is a very incestuous industry. Some people might find the anecdotes about other writers a bit much but I didn’t mind.

She does tend to be a bit snooty about books, she wouldn’t buy a Richard and Judy book club book for instance. But I can outsnoot her there as I’ve never even seen Richard and Judy so wouldn’t know what they recommend. Strangely she isn’t a fan of Jane Austen and won’t read anything by a Canadian or Australian.

She doesn’t like Folio books, they are too perfect apparently. I adore Folio books because they are perfect. But Susan Hill is a strange book reader, she TURNS DOWN PAGE CORNERS! I think she is one of those people who think that a battered book is a loved book, whereas I think it is just an abused book.

In the end, she didn’t do what I thought she was going to do. I thought she would read some of her backlog of unread books and maybe do a few re-reads and write about them. However she chose forty books which are listed at the end and these are the ones which she decided she must take with her, presumably desert island style.

I think I might stop buying books for a while, I don’t know if I’ll be able to last out a whole year without buying books. I’m sure I have more than enough unread books in my house to keep me going.

But the thing is, I love visiting bookshops and so does my husband so either I would have to accompany him to the shop, which would be the equivalent of an alcoholic sniffing around a pub – too tempting. Or I have to wait outside for him and take up tap dancing to stop me from being really bored – it could be a very long wait.

I think I would allow myself to borrow modern books from the library though because I want to read the books which have been recommended by blogbuddies. Is that cheating?

This is the first Susan Hill book which I have read for many years. I remember reading some of her books in the 1970s but in the 80s I read a magazine article which she had written about the very short life and death of her baby daughter. It was very moving and I had just suffered a miscarriage myself so I think I have unconsciously avoided her since then. I might have a look and see what else she has been writing more recently, via the library of course.

If anyone wants to know which books Susan Hill chose for her Final Forty list, let me know and I will add them to this post.

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