Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

Tag: Susan Hill

Howards End is on the Landing

Howards End is on the Landing, Susan Hill

Susan Hill owns too many books. She hasn’t read them all and she hasn’t re-read as much as she’d like to. One year = forty books she already owns. This book is a memoir of reading through her bookshelves. I love books, I love this idea. I just need to get a very small negative out of the way first: I really like Susan Hill’s writing, but it turns out she is a bit snobby (too much name dropping and bragging).

So anyway, the good stuff:

  • This is a book lover’s book. If you like collecting books, arranging books, book covers, fonts, lists of books, looking through other people’s bookshelves, reading about things you’ve read, reading about things you haven’t, picking your favourite books… then this book is for you.
  • She covers lots of interesting thoughts about reading: how quickly you should read, whereabouts, books of your childhood, reading an author’s entire works, giving merit to ‘unreadable classics’, what to do when you just don’t like an author you ought to, and so on.

My favourite thing about Howards End is on the Landing happened whenever Hill talked about P G Wodehouse or Nancy Mitford. I had the same feeling I used to get whenever I read my Mum’s books as a child. They always felt a bit secretive or foreign and reading them was so much more a joy because of that.

Children Make the Best Ghosts

The Small Hand, Susan Hill

Yes, the cover is that beautiful. Susan Hill is queen of creating the perfect amount of atmosphere for modern victorian-inspired ghost stories. This one is about an antiquarian book dealer (so, yes, there is a lot of rarities here to satisfy a lover of books) who stumbles upon a derelict house in the country. He is magnetically drawn to the house, and upon visiting feels an icy hand of a child holding his own. Obviously anything else I tell you would ruin the point of finding out what happens for yourself, but there are unexpected settings and mysterious family histories involved.

I loved the notion of the building being a factor in the story, almost like a character. This theme appears in quite a lot of the books I have read and loved; like The Little Stranger or Rebbecca. And coincidentally this months UK Vogue had an article by Joanna Briscoe about the identities that places have, so I can’t be the only one who loves elements like these.

This book is not dissimilar to The Woman in Black, if you enjoyed that, you’ll enjoy this. I don’t necessarily think that writers should be experimental in the kind of writing they do – to me, it isn’t a criticism to say that an author’s books are stylistically obviously theirs. I love finding authors that write a particular genre brilliantly and stick to it.

The Woman In Black

The Woman in Black, Susan Hill

There is nothing like a ghost story on a winter’s evening. I have seen the stage adaptation of this book before, and it is brilliant, and pretty faithful to the original story: A young solicitor is sent from London to tend to the affairs of a recently deceased client in a remote part of the country. With a creaking old house separated from the rest of the village by marshland and rising tides, the main character starts work.

If I hadn’t known anything about Susan Hill, I would have assumed she was a victorian writer, a jumble of Edgar Allen Poe and Wilkie Collins perhaps. An old fashioned ghost story; with mysterious wasting women in graveyards, rocking chairs in nurseries, and drownings in the marshland. Hill captures atmosphere and builds tension perfectly.

The main difference between reading and watching The Woman in Black is the sound of the novel; during the play, the sounds were what made it terrifying. I was lucky to be able to remember them as I was reading; although I think that even without this background, I could create the sounds out of my imagination because the novel is so well written.