Tuesday, 9 January 2018



I'm in two minds about this. I love the cover; it's irresistible. (Despite the aberrant apostrophe on the back. Praise for Howard's End is on the Landing! Sloppy.)
But 250-odd pages in the company of Susan Hill? She feels like a grumpy neighbour who makes you feel, 'Oh, god! How long am I going to be stuck?' as she's approaching. (I admit it. I can do grumpy old woman with the best. See that apostrophe grouch above? Typical.)
Anyway, Susan Hill ... She's great chatting away about books and I've made a note to myself that I really must get around to reading CP Snow's The Masters, which has lingered in a pile on Mary's Landing for far too many years, gathering dust.
But then she drones on and repeats herself. On and on, word for word, about the silly questions students put to her about The Woman in Black. And the weather. She doesn't like it when it's hot; she doesn't like the cold. Her opinions seem set in stone. She doesn't like Jane Austen and she's never read Jane Eyre. (We all have gaps in our reading but that's an odd one, and she sounds rather proud of it!) She would love to visit the Northern Lights, 'but I don't suppose I ever shall?' Well, why not? I wanted to shout ... all those royalties rolling in from The Woman in Black. Get out there. Live a life. Stop burying yourself in all those books. Her interest in Antarctica is extinguished once she realises that people go there on holiday and she takes 27 books about the white continent to the charity shop.
Normally I feel that reading is a Good Thing. But Susan Hill depresses me.
But then she's very good on Aelred of Rievaulx and she puts her finger on why I don't much like Barbara Pym and and she makes me want to re-read Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy. Like I said, I'm in two minds. Perhaps Susan Hill is better dipped into and taken in small doses rather than read straight through. But Susan Hill is Due Back at the Library.

10 comments:

Toffeeapple said...

I was in two minds about reading this but you have now clarified things for meMary. Thank you.

Pam said...

I loved "Howards End Is On The Landing" and "The Magic Apple Tree" (have you read that?)so was surprised that she strikes you as grumpy. Oh dear, I haven't read any of the Brontes. I keep thinking I will but never get round to it. I love Jane Austen, though, and she's the reason I don't fancy the Brontes. They do seem to get fearfully worked up about things. Mind you, I've just read C Bronte's letters and they were quite an enjoyable read, so maybe I should get round to the novels.

mary said...

Don't let me put you off, Toffeeapple!

I didn't finish Howards End, Pam; I dipped in and out, then it got lost in the piles as things do. The Magic Apple Tree sounds a bit rural for me. But I know I read some of her early novels, mostly because I liked the idea of her being a published author when she was still a student; I was very keen on tales of early success!
I know what you mean about the Brontes; but disliking Jane Austen just seems perverse. (She doesn't explain.) I'm sure I'd have enjoyed this book more had it been better edited; she wouldn't have sounded so grouchy if they'd stopped her repeating herself.

Mystica said...

I'm with you on small doses.

callmemadam said...

I read Howards End is on the Landing and enjoyed it with many reservations. Not enough about books, too much name dropping. I did review it at the time. I'll almost certainly read Jacob's Room if I can get it from the library, because who doesn't like books about books? The Jane Austen blind spot is odd; she mentions it in the earlier book as well.

mary said...

Hello, Mystica - haven't seen you here for a while. Happy New Year!

Don't mind the name-dropping as she has known some interesting people, Callmemadam. But there's a lot of repetition and weather - who cares about weather once it's been and gone! Definitely one for the library, I think. I really wanted to like it more but Susan Hill felt like prickly company.

Cosy Books said...

Slightly regretting the return of a pristine copy of Manning's Balkan Trilogy to the discard bin at the library, Mary. It sat on shelf for over a year (and it's chunky) and I was in the mood to clear some space.

mary said...

Oh Darlene, that was a bad decision! Did you ever see the TV series with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson when they were Ken&Em?

Veronica Cooke said...

I loved 'Howards End is on the Landing' so was looking forward to reading this one - eventually...

I read 'The Masters' years ago; can't remember a thing about it. As I type this I've got 'The Balkan Trilogy' ogling me from the shelf. I will read it one day; Dovegrey Reader Scribbles' speaks highly of it but it did take her a long time to get round to reading it and then reading it!

Mary said...

I remember being quite gripped by it (The Balkan Trilogy) years ago, Veronica, probably back in the 80s - and went on to read the later books, too. Although perhaps I remember it as much for the TV series as the books.