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I love my journey to and from this book.  Having started my Bookshop Challenge 2018, I found whilst searching for The Accidental by Ali Smith, which was on my list, I kept seeing Zadie Smith books and eventually bought On Beauty which was slung on the ever increasing to do list pile.  A few weekends ago Zadie Smith was featured in the Guardian as a result of the recent release of her new collection of Essays, Feel Free.  The article inspired me to pick up the Zadie Smith I had, On Beauty, and read it.  I loved it so it was one of those books I googled to see reviews of and I found that Smith had written it as a homage to Howards End by E M Forster, which she feels is his best novel.  I picked up Howards End and whilst reading it (still am) I remembered that Merchant Ivory had made it into a film so I looked this up and the results of putting Howards End into the search engine meant Susan Hills book, Howards End is on the Landing,  got thrown into the mix and I ordered it from Waterstones.  It arrived in a package with Zadie Smith’s collection of essays, Feel Free.

Bookshop Challenge }} Ali Smith }} Zadie Smith }} E M Forster }} Susan Hill

Howards End is on the Landing follows Susan Hills realisation that the books in her house are perhaps neglected with some not read and some not read for a while.  She undertakes to spend a year just reading what she has.  And it sounds like she has a lot.  There are rooms of books in her house, it sounds idyllic.  The book doesn’t follow a linear pattern so she doesn’t talk through each month and laboriously talk about which books she read, instead she talks more in themes – diaries for example or people.  Susan Hill has been a published author since very early in her life and I believe she is now in her 70’s.  Her life has been a literary one and she shares anecdotes such as bumping into E M Forster in a library or knowing someone who spoke to Virgina Woolf who, in turn, spoke to Thomas Hardy.  She shares touching stories about special people in her life and the impact they and their books, or books about them, had on her.

This is a short book but full of information.  I was inspired by it to download some Benjamin Brittain and to go out bookshop hunting with a whole new list of books and authors recommended by Susan Hill.   Those journeys to books are going to be never-ending!

What Susan Hill gave me was a better understanding of books I think.  I feel like I want to dip into someone’s diary now where I never have before.  I want myself to revisit Thomas Hardy and I am excited about reading Elizabeth Bowen.  But mainly I found Susan Hill.  Her style of writing welcomed me in to her home and made me really want to see her bookcases!

“As I climbed to the top of the house I came across a book here on a stair, another book there on a window ledge, a small pile of books on the step outside a bedroom door, and saw that half of the books here lead a peripatetic life never knowing where they will be expected to lay their heads next, while the rest sleep soundly for years in the same position quite undisturbed.  But as in the fairy tales, sooner or later someone wakes you, even from a sleep of a hundred years and so I have woken books and taken them out shaken them and slapped them on the back, opened them to the light and fresh air, sneezing as the dust has puffed up from their pages.  It must have been a shock for them.  Or perhaps it was a wonderful liberation, as they were brought back to life and fresh purpose like Lazarus, for a book which is closed and unread is not alive…” 

So, from this book I quickly moved onto The Woman in Black which is definitely a new favourite and I am currently reading The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen.  All thanks to Susan Hill who I reckon already is one of my favourite authors!