Posts Tagged With: susan hill

Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

Title: Howards End is on the Landing
Susan Hill
Profile Books
First Published:
July 2010
No. of pages: 240

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (Amazon):
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

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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Young lawyer arthur Kipps is sent to the remote village of Crythin Gifford, to sort out the estate of the late Alice Drablow.  Mrs Drablow lived in isolation in Eel Marsh House, which can only be accessed by the temperamental Nine Lives Causeway.

As part of his duties, Arthur attends Mrs Drablow’s funeral, and while there, sees a young woman dressed all in black.  However, when he tried to make enquiries about the identity of the young woman, he finds that nobody wants to discuss it with him.

As Arthur heads to Eel Marsh House, he sees and senses things which make him question his safety and sanity, and realises that to make any sense of events, he needs to solve the mystery of the woman in black.

This book was a good read, but I had very high hopes for it and therefore ended up feeling slightly disappointed that I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would.  On the plus side, the sense of isolation and tension that Arthur felt at the old house was expertly portrayed.  The house almost became another character in the story, so well was the isolation and desolation therein depicted.

The story is told by an older Arthur, remembering the events of twelve years earlier.  As this is made clear from the very beginning of the book, it therefore becomes obvious to the reader that whatever happened, Arthur would live to tell the tale.  This did remove some of the suspense, but did not really detract from overall enjoyment.

However, as a horror story, it did not push all the right buttons.  It certainly did not frighten or disturb me (although other books have done), but rather, I saw it as a mystery, where I wanted to find out the reason behind all the events which happened.

There is only a small cast of characters, and many of them are peripheral, and I didn’t feel that we really got to know them.  The one character that stood out was a man who Arthur befriends named Samuel Daily, who was my favourite character when I had finished reading the book.

This book was written in the 1980s, but it feels almost as though it could have been written 100 years earlier.  The writing was very eloquent, and flowed easily.  It is a short novel – just over 150 pages, and therefore there wasn’t time for the reader to become bored.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it certainly won’t be keeping me awake at night!

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