A good friend of mine died recently. One of her favourite authors was Susan Hill and she kept trying to persuade me to read the books. I regret that didn’t, but in honour of her memory I plan to read through some of her books. I pulled out a random book from my old Penguin collection of vintage books and it was Ladies and Gentlemen by Susan Hill (1968) that I thought was beautifully written. Howard’s End Is On The Landing is the second Susan Hill book I’ve enjoyed now, so I’m sure my reading quest will be an enjoyable one.
My Thoughts & Review
I read and enjoyed this book and when I’d finished it went back to the beginning and read and enjoyed it all again, this time taking notes of books recommended.
All bookworms and lovers of books will recognise and identify with the opening chapter of the book
IT BEGAN LIKE THIS. I went to the shelves on the landing to look for a book I knew was there. it was not. but plenty of others were and among them I noticed at least a dozen I realised I had never read.
The prolific and much admired author Susan Hill decides to spend her reading time for a year by reading books already on her shelf and discovers new titles, she’d forgotten she had but also many old favourites to be read and enjoyed once more. I must try one year, that is if I can resist new titles for a year.
The book, with its intriguing title and gorgeous book cover is a memoir of sorts that could have had the working title of My Life in Books as we are taken through Susan Hill’s literary life – the books she’s read and loved that become old favourites and are re-read often and cherished. The literary figures, she’s known or met; authors, playwrights and poets. It’s an impressive list but there isn’t a hint of book snobbery or deliberate name-dropping, only a fascinating account of those meetings and rich in anecdote of friends or acquaintances.
As Susan Hill writes:
Name-dropping is a tiresome, if harmless, trait. But I have been encouraged and inspired by many people in the world of books, not all of whose names I remember (or perhaps even knew): librarians, bookshop staff, school and university teachers, fellow readers, correspondents. I salute them, too, for I owe them so much.
I wouldn’t pretend to be as well read as Susan Hill, but there were so many titles mentioned in the book that I recognised from my reading life that I’ve enjoyed and cherished, beginning with the childhood reads of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven and the Malory Towers series. The Rupert Bear and Beano annuals. Dickens and P G Wodehouse. John Wyndham books. Iris Murdoch, Thomas Hardy and other books I’ve read and enjoyed.
My favourite book of all time and first read for O’level is My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, also a favourite of Susan Hill and described by her:
I often suggest one of the most magical books on my shelves, as well as one of the funniest. It has rarely failed.
It is a wonderful story, and a true one, about the springtime of Gerald’s life when he and his family ‘fled from the gloom of the English summer like a flock of migrating swallows’ to the magical island of Corfu’
I was going to suggest that Howard’s End Is On The Landing would be enjoyed more by older readers of a certain age, but then good literature is good literature, never dates and can be enjoyed by anyone of any age who likes reading. Also useful, I suspect for any students of English Literature.
I’ve already bought two books recommended: A Time To Keep Silence Patrick Leigh Fermor and A Writer’s Life by Virginia Woolf (49p on Kindle. Two particular favourites of Susan Hill.
I love old books and collect old book titles when I find them, especially Penguin editions.
This was a really enjoyable read that was like spending an afternoon browsing around an old bookshop with an erudite, interesting friend.
Now onto the next one Jacob’s Room is Full of Books: A Year of Reading
About Susan Hill
Susan Hill, CBE is an English author of fiction and non-fiction. Her novels include The Woman in Black , The Mist in the Mirror, and I’m the King of the Castle. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to literature.
Hill was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Her home town was later referred to in her novel A Change for the Better. Hill attended the Scarborough Convent School, where she became interested in theatre and literature. Her family left Scarborough in 1958 and moved to Coventry, where her father worked in car and aircraft factories. Hill proceeded to acquire an English degree at King’s College London. By this time, she had already written her first novel, The Enclosure, which was published by Hutchinson in her first year at the University. The novel was criticised by the Daily Mail for its sexual content.
Hill’s novels are written in a descriptive gothic style, especially her ghost story, The Woman in Black, published in 1983. The book was made into a film in 2012 starring Daniel Radcliffe. In 2004, Hill began a series of crime novels featuring Detective Simon Serrailler entitled The Various Haunts of Men.