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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Howards End is on the Landing

Author: Susan Hill
Originally Published: 2009
Edition Courtney Read Published: 2010
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Source: Purchased

The Story

Howards End Is On the Landing-by-susan-hillFrom the back of the book:

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, in order to get to know her own collection again.

Considering everything from Macbeth through Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and Roald Dahl, 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.

The Response

I’ve had this book in my possession for over a year now; before that, it had been on the TBR list for a few of years (actually, since it was first published in 2009). Despite never having read any of Hill’s other books, I was definitely intrigued and wanted to know about what she was reading and to hear thoughts on her own reading journey. (Hello, I read book blogs. I love hearing about other peoples’ reading journeys.)

I knew that I was going to enjoy this book from the point at the beginning of the book where Hill spoke about her favourite fonts, and how some are so much better for printed books than others. She also talks a bit about paper and the materials that covers are made of later in the book. Reading about this made me feel as if Hill were a kindred spirit, and definitely made me more interested to know what books were important enough to her that she had to go back and reread them.

I really like how the book was formatted – almost like small little essays regarding different topics relating to books. Some were about books by certain authors, others were genre-related, and yet others spoke about writing in books. Each chapter gave us a glimpse into the recollections certain books give Hill. Some of them tell us about encounters that Hill herself had with the authors of some of these books, while others spoke about why a particular book could be considered a classic, and some even gave us full passages of a book or two so we could get a feeling of the book she was talking about itself.

The way that Hill looked back on her past and where certain books fit in gave this book a nostalgic and almost glamorous feeling – the same type of almost glamour that you feel when watching a movie with a scene about an old Hollywood party. I don’t know if literary parties are still anything like they were when Hill was first published, but they sounded like she was brushing elbows with the who’s who in publishing, and it came across as being utterly wonderful.

I will be honest – there were very few books that Hill wrote about that I have actually read. Yes, there’s the Austen (though her opinion of Austen differs greatly from mine), the Wodehouse, and the children’s classics… but that may have been it. That said, however, this in no way made reading about these books less enjoyable. It did make me want to add a few to my own TBR list (in fact, I may now be willing to attempt some Dickens), but this book is much more about Hill herself and how these books had an important role in her own life than it ever was about the books themselves.

I’m definitely interested in reading some of Hill’s own books now – I am familiar with The Woman in Black, as I saw the movie adaptation in theatres and it scared me silly! So I’m thinking that is where I will start.

The Bottom Line

Definitely an enjoyable memoir, and one I would recommend to other book lovers.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:16 am November 4, 2014.
Category: Non-Fiction
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  • Jenn vanOosten

    Hmm, sounds intriguing. I’m not typically a memoir kinda reader, but I’m contemplating giving this one a go….

  • Bibliomama

    I love memoirs by bookish people. If the memoir is specifically bookish, all the better.