Monday, May 30, 2011

Howards End Is on the Landing: Review

Books help to form us. If you cut me open, will you find volume after volume, page after page, the contents of every one I have ever read, somehow transmuted into me? Alice in Wonderland. The Magic Faraway Tree. The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Book of Job. Bleak House. Wuthering Heights. The Complete Poems of W. H. Auden. The Tale of Mr. Tod. Howards End. What a strange person I must be. But if the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sum of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA.

Howards End Is on the Landing (p. 202)
~Susan Hill

It isn't often that a book comes along that I want to underline just about every sentence....or at least snag them for my quote collection. Susan Hill's book is such a one. Howards End Is on the Landing
is Hill's journey through her books. One autumn afternoon she is in search of a certain book, but her collection is strewn throughout her house in various rooms, on sundry bookshelves. There is no definite order. Certain books have congregated together--but the logic sometimes escapes her. And as she searches she discovers old friends fondly remembered and strangers that she has never read or even forgotten she ever bought. This discovery sparks a decision to spend a year reading only books from her shelves, sending her on a journey to get to know her own collection again.

Her journey takes her from Shakespeare to Dickens, from W. H. Auden to Roald Dahl, and from Virginia Woolf to Iris Murdoch. Along the way, she shares conversations with authors she has known, visits to libraries she has loved, and the books she has devoured through a lifetime of reading. She gives us comments on the writers, insights into reading, and a window into what informed her own writing. This is a marvelous book for those who love reading. It is part memoir and part review and is very conversational in tone. And I find myself in total agreement with her on the subject of books--no electronic reader can ever give the satisfaction of holding a book in your hand or walking into a room completely shelved in books, whether that be a personal or public library or a bookstore. There is something special about the presence of books that a glowing screen cannot match. Borrowed from the library, but destined to be owned as soon as possible. Five stars.


Birdie said...

Ooooh, I've been wanting to get my hands on this one for a while. Perhaps when you hand it back, I can sneak in and grab it before someone else does!
So glad to hear it lives up to it's promise.

Falaise said...

I loved this post too, although I am just the tiniest bit jealous of her literary life!

Yvette said...

I loved this book, too! One of my favorite book about books. :)