Austen to Zafón 's Reviews > Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home

Howards End Is on the Landing by Susan Hill
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's review
Jan 22, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: bio-memoir, own-tp, non-fiction
Read from December 05, 2012 to January 10, 2013

I wish I could say I liked this book. I so wanted to love it, being crazy for books myself. I found her range quite narrow and, well, snobby. She dismisses all Canadian and Australian literature, past and present, in one vague sentence, with no more apology or explanation than, "(I know, I know.)" I still don't know why she doesn't like them. Except for a scant few Russian and European authors, her book was filled with white British and American authors. I'm a big fan of many of her favorites, but come on, hasn't she read more widely than that?

Also, the name-dropping bored me and I think I may have strained my eyes rolling them. It often felt like she was choosing favorite books based not on the books' merits, but on whether she had some personal connection to the author that she could mention. And some were so tenuous as to be silly. She didn't know Virginia Woolf, but she did know one of Woolf's sales reps. She didn't know E. M. Forster, but he once dropped a book on her foot in the library and apologized. She didn't know T. S. Eliot, but he once gave her an owlish smile as they both waited for someone to answer the door at a party. And failing even the briefest acquaintance, there are at least two authors of whom she could only say that she *could* have met them if she wanted to, but she never managed to find the time. Sure, there were interesting parts where she talked about authors she did know well and I enjoyed those, but the rest of the name-dropping told me nothing about the authors, their books, or why she liked them. If she talked to me at a cocktail party in the way she writes about her brushes with fame, I'd be nodding and saying "Isn't that nice for you?" while looking desperately toward the drinks table and hoping someone would rescue me.

Finally, she makes such sweeping generalizations. I laughed out loud when I read that people who put bookplates in their books are posers! There's nothing I like more than to buy an old book and find a bookplate in it. I don't put them in my books any more, but I did when I was young. I did it because I loved those books more than anything. They were my link to a sane world. Far from being posers, I think people often do it because their books feel like a part of them. Right or wrong, I certainly don't think that people who bother to buy and affix bookplates are posing to anyone. It's a private process and one that people who don't love books wouldn't take the time to do. It's funny that she's okay with writing interlinear and margin comments, but not with inscribing a book or writing your name in it. To me, those are just as much a postcard to the future as writing "Indeed!" next to a favorite assertion. And unless she can provide some sort of data, I must disagree with her assertion that "Girls read more than boys, always have, always will. That's a known fact." Perhaps she didn't get to know the right boys. In the end, though, her generalizations didn't bother me as much as the other two aspects. For the last third of the book, I was just scanning for titles and skimming all the anecdotes.

I'm glad others enjoyed it and there were certainly many good books mentioned. But I wasn't able to add much to my "to read" list.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Leslie (new)

Leslie This one has been on my radar because of the, let's face it, fabulous cover and of course it has the great Howard's End (sigh) in the title. Can't wait to learn what you think of it.

Austen to Zafón Leslie wrote: "This one has been on my radar because of the, let's face it, fabulous cover and of course it has the great Howard's End (sigh) in the title. Can't wait to learn what you think of it."

Well, so far I'm not thrIlled. I'll keep reading, but it's not what I thought it would be, which was a book about readers, why we read what we do, what it means to us, what great books have meant to her. So far, it's more name-dropping than discussing books. If she talked to me like this at a cocktail party, I'd be glancing toward the bar in desperation and hoping someone would rescue me.

message 3: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Oh, Shannon, I can just picture you at that cocktail party!

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