Title: Howards End is on the Landing
Author: Susan Hill
Publisher: Profile Books
First Published: July 2010
No. of pages: 240
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. Howard’s 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’d heard so many wonderful things about this book that I think I fell victim to the hype and wanted to like it so much more than I did. That’s not to say it’s not good – it IS good, just not as good as I’d hoped.
Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home is less a love letter to the books Susan Hill loves, and more a recounting of the many anecdotes she has of meeting and working with other writers, and their books which have subsequently helped shape her life, both personally and professionally.
It’s a little dry in places and, I confess, it did not actually inspire me to search for any of the books mentioned that I had not already read, but I did enjoy some of the little stories that were triggered by Hill wandering round her book-filled home and choosing to read only books she already owns for a year.
If we were all to follow her example, I’m sure everyone’s “Final Forty” would look very different. Certainly, there are not many books on which she settles that I would include in my own list, and there are many others I would insist upon that are omitted, but, as I’ve already intimated, everyone’s tastes are different.
This is an interesting read for anyone who loves books and, who knows, may lead to others discovering the joys of those tomes Hill pulled down from her own shelves.
Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite