2010 Profile Books (first published in 2009)
Finished on December 25, 2020
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)
This is a year of reading from home, by one of Britain's most distinguished authors.
Early one autumn afternoon in pursuit of an elusive book on her shelves, Susan Hill encountered dozens of others that she had never read, or forgotten she owned, or wanted to read for a second time.
The discovery inspired her to embark on a year-long voyage through her books, forsaking new purchases in order to get to know her own collection again.
A book which is left on a shelf for a decade is a dead thing, but it is also a chrysalis, packed with the potential to burst into new life. Wandering through her house that day, Hill's eyes were opened to how much of that life was stored in her home, neglected for years.
Howards End is on the Landing charts the journey of one of the nation's most accomplished authors as she revisits the conversations, libraries and bookshelves of the past that have informed a lifetime of reading and writing.
I've read a couple of Susan Hill's Simon Serrallier mysteries (The Shadows in the Streets and The Various Haunts of Men are excellent!), but this was my first encounter with one of her nonfiction titles. I learned about Howards End is on the Landing from my friend Nan (Letters From a Hill Farm) many years ago. She loved the book and I was so inspired, I bought a copy to give to my mom without reading it ahead of time. I added both this book and Jacob's Room is Full of Books (also by Susan Hill) to my stack for the Nonfiction November reading challenge, eager to read a couple of books about books.
Oh, how I wanted to love this book. How could I not love a book about spending an entire year reading from one's own shelves? Nan spoke so fondly of it (you can read her thoughts here and here), but I am sorry to say that I found it rather dull. There is far too much name dropping and as I don't read a lot of British authors, many of the names were unfamiliar to me. I did enjoy the essay about Virginia Woolf (which has inspired me to give Mrs. Dalloway another reading), as well as one about children's books, but overall I was disappointed and admit that I even skimmed several pages. I hope Jacob's Room is Full of Books is the better of the two books.
Be sure to visit Nan's blog and read her glowing review of this book.