Howards End is on the Landing, By Susan Hill
Sunday 08 August 2010
Susan Hill's resolution to spend a whole year reading and re-reading nothing but the books in her house – no buying new paperbacks, no sneaky trips to the library – has resulted in this pleasantly opinionated memoir.
Many of the books give rise to reminiscences about their authors, for in her long career Hill has met many of the most eminent literary figures of the 20th century (TS Eliot, Edith Sitwell, Bruce Chatwin, VS Naipaul, EM Forster) and these people come alive in her deliciously clear prose. I can't agree with all her judgements: her blind spots (Proust, Joyce) are not the same as mine; I wouldn't rate Virginia Woolf above George Orwell; and it's a mystery to me how anyone could prefer the wispy charm of Barbara Pym to the solid brilliance of Jane Austen.
On the other hand, I agree with her high estimation of Dickens, Hardy, PG Wodehouse and Lewis Carroll, and her lingering affection for Enid Blyton. By the end of this book you feel you've been involved in a fascinating conversation, with just enough agreement to make it worthwhile and just enough disagreement to make it stimulating.
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