After telling Andrea, the owner of the bookshop where Clare works, that I really should not buy more books until I read what I already had in the house, she suggested I read Howard’s End is on the Landing which is a book about a woman who spent a year reading only what was in her house. Since there was a copy in the shop, I bought it.
It begins with Susan Hill, the author, looking for a book that she believes is on the landing in her seemingly huge home. She doesn’t find the book right away but realizes she should read or reread nothing but books that live in her house for the next year. A subplot (if you can call it that) is that she wants also compile a list of forty books that she’d take if she could only have forty, to a desert island.
When I began reading the book I didn’t really like it. I felt that the author was a book snob. I also had never heard of her, although she mentioned in the book that she was an author. I remember thinking that she must not be that good since I didn’t know who she was. The further I got into the book the more I disliked the author, although I did end up buying Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals based on Hill’s recommendation.
I stopped reading the book after a while and occasionally picked it up and read a bit here and there, but always put it down again. I didn’t like that I’d not read most of the books she mentioned and had no desire to do so. I didn’t like that authors I thought she should mention were ignored. Granted she is English and I am not, so she mostly talked about books by British authors.
In January I decided to “read from home” this year, not unlike what Susan Hill did in her book. I figured that I should probably finish that book this year too, and maybe send it back to Browsers since it was still in good condition. I’d not planned on keeping it because I didn’t plan on referring to it.
Then I read her chapter that mentioned ghost stories. This was different from the highbrow literary books she’d been going on and on about for the past 103 pages. I looked her up on the Internet and saw that she wrote a book called The Woman in Black so I downloaded it from the library and read it (and liked it!).
After reading The Woman in Black, I felt a little less intimidated by Hill. She wrote a ghost story, for goodness sake. How snobby could she be? (plus she responded to a tweet I sent her)
It didn’t take that long to finish the book after January compared to how long it took to get to page 104. Although I still disagree with Susan Hill on a lot of things for instance writing in books (she thinks it is perfectly fine and I think it is never okay) or ebooks (she hates them, I quite like them), I ended up really liking the book. Just as I was finishing the book this morning I felt that when Andrea handed me the book fifteen months ago, she handed me an icicle that slowly melted, then warmed in my hands. The last fifty pages or so was like a luxurious bath and I felt that I understood Susan Hill so much more than I did at the beginning.
I am keeping the book and plan on referring to it for reading material often.