Saturday, 31 October 2009

The comfort of reading

It's been an emotional week. I've decided it's time to move out of the parental home - I moved back in when finishing my MA back in 2007, and I suddenly feel like it's the right time. I've been to look at quite a few places, and found a couple I liked. One in particular was great, apart from the fact I would be sharing with three guys. Now; don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with guys per se (and these were all lovely, tidy and old enough not to behave like idiots all the time) but it's not something I've ever done. Lots of soul searching was required.

Today, I finally made up my mind that this was the right move, and emailed them to say so. A couple of hours ago I had an email back saying that the girl that was moving out had changed her mind for the time being. So it's back to the drawing board. Heigh ho, these things happen, and at least I've not signed the contract or am all packed up and ready to go!

Throughout this week, I have been reading a lot to take my mind off things, and have been luxuriating in the wonder that is Susan Hill. 'Howards End is on the Landing' has made it to my house and has been making its presence felt.

The cover is enough to comfort, let alone what can be found inside.

So - what does this book have to tell you? Firstly, it's a tremendous explanation as to why Susan Hill disappeared from the web over a year ago. I noticed around June last year that the link to the left of this post that had led to Susan's blog, now led to nothing. I hoped it was a glitch but nothing ever surfaced.
Susan had, apparently, gone on a search for a book, and although she'd not found it, she did discover an awful lot of books she had either not read at all, or not read in a very long time. If there's one thing I can relate to, it's that! My shelves are crammed with books I've bought, but not read.

We are taken on a tour, not only of Susans' house, but also her life, peppered as it is with encounters with some of the best known names of the twentieth century. It's a charming book, full of recommendations that are made with fervour and a keen insight. I found myself almost able to understand her dislike of Austen (Susan, I'm a Janeite and I hate 'Mansfield Park' and 'Northanger Abbey'!!), and discovered a hunger to get back into Grahame Green, Thomas Hardy, Dickens, and all those other classics that are languishing on my shelves. I've been introduced to a lot of authors I've never heard of (and even found myself whilst up in London last weekend pondering whether I should buy a book she had passionately talked about ... I put it back. If Susan has taught me anything, it is that one should read the books one has!)

Simon and I are going to hear her talk later in November, so I'm sure this book will pop up another time. I could relate to the subject matter, and Susan, so much, that it almost makes me want to rush up to her at the event and proclaim affinity (as well as a passion for 'The Lady of Shallot'). This would probably end up being my equivalent of her experience with Edith Sitwell. Not a good plan!

Anyway, it's a lovely little book, with plenty to make one think. At the end, she lists the 40 books that she would choose if she could only have have 40 to last her the rest of her life. The fact that 'Learning to Dance' by Michael Mayne is listed twice is perhaps testament to the fact that she really cannot live without that book. (Only it's actually a misprint ... but like she says, it gives her room to tinker with the list!).

Susan Hill's copy of 'Howards End' is on the landing .... where is yours? (Mine is in the spare bedroom!


Sarah In Wonderland said...

I shall buy it! I shall brave the torrential winds, drag on mackintosh and army boots and dash out into, ;)

I have just fallen upon your glorious blog and have been lost in it for the past hour. It is a haven for book lovers. Just thank you for writing it! :)

oxford-reader said...

Thank you Sarah! Wonderful to know this is inspiring people out there!

Thomas said...

Finding appropriate housemates is always taxing. It is annoying when one doesn't get the situation counted on. But in the end I realize I have dodged a few bullets by losing out on what I thought would be a perfect living situation.

As for Susan Hill, I had major mixed feelings about this book. Although I enjoyed it, my review was less than stellar. There seem to be two camps on this one.

Anna said...

@Thomas, my review, had I written one, would also have been less than stellar. Which made me think there was something wrong with me. Interesting to find out that some people had views which differed from the opinions in the blogosphere which I inhabit.