Sunday, February 15, 2015

Howards End is on the Landing

I can hardly believe it has been four years since I first read Howards End is on the Landing. Then I read it in two days; this time I read a chapter at the end of each day. 

I loved it just as well this time, especially the chapters about Virginia Woolf and PG Wodehouse, but on the second reading, I found myself drawn more to the author's recollections of the past than I was before - her childhood, people she had met, how England has changed. I realized that I am about the age now that Susan Hill was when she wrote the book. 

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on children’s books since I am happily back in that world again. I share the author’s concern when she writes
It is saddening to know that the majority of children never have stories read to them at home. How much they miss, of shared pleasure and fun, comfort and closeness, interest and learning.
I suspect it is even more ‘saddening’ with the proliferation of iPads and smart phones. From taking care of Hazel Nina and spending time with Campbell Walker I see first hand how enticing screens are. The little ones are drawn to them from across a room. They pick up phones with the greatest of interest. The lives of children born now will be more entwined with the internet than any generation before them, which will inevitably take time away from reading books, and being read to.

I bought a couple new books based on her recommendation: The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, and The Third Man by Graham Greene. I was ever more drawn toward the so-called ‘middlebrow’ authors I've been meaning to read for ages, such as Margaret Kennedy and Warwick Deeping. 

She ends the book with a list of 40 books she would keep. I could never bring myself to make my own list of 40. I would include every book I own because I either haven’t read it, or have read it and cannot be without its presence in my life. 

Whimsically, I decided to put this book, and my two copies of Howards End on my own landing.

12 comments:

  1. I have a few relatives with new babies (well, a year old or close to that age) and I agree. I think these little ones will be more entwined with the internet and technology than any other generation, but I do see these parents reading "real" books to their kiddos, which makes me very happy. I think there can be a balance, especially if the parents themselves are avid readers.

    Like you, I could never limit myself to just 40 favorite books. I do purge my shelves every so often, but more often than not, I'll pick up a book that I'm tempted to donate and think to myself that maybe I should read it one more time... just in case. :)

    This book sounds lovely. I need to see if I can find a copy at the library, either in print or on audio.

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    1. It is worth buying for the beautiful cover. It may be my most favorite of all covers. I love this book beyond words.

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  2. I am not so sure that it really is the majority of children who never have stories read to them at home. Yes, there surely are (and always have been, not just in recent years) families that don't read at all, where the TV double-functions as a baby sitter, but there are also many families who like books and read to their children and grandchildren. You are of course right in saying that all the devices with screens are very attracitve to children (and most adults, too!) and inevitably take away time from reading books. Still, book shops and libraries are still much frequented, and the closing down of smaller, independent shops has less to do with people's interest in books than with price politics and other factors.
    My mother manages a network of 70 volunteers in our home town, men and women who visit kindergardens and elementary schools all across town every week for an hour or two where they read to the children. They all love it - adults and kis alike - and there's hope that children who have this in their kindergarden and school classes will remember it when they get to the age of having their own families.

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    1. I love this about the readers. What a wonderful, wonderful thing it is. Good for kids to see older people enjoying books, and so good for the volunteers themselves. I hope you are right about stories at home. I think I read somewhere that libraries are most frequented by parents of little ones. I know my town library has many programs for kids.

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  3. I read this book just before we moved house in 2009 and Dave and I had been to Abingdon where Susan Hill gave a talk about her book, it was a most interesting meeting! Reading your post has brought it all back and I've taken the book off the shelves in the hall (we don't have a landing!) to read it again.

    My grandchildren all love books - but then both their parents do - and although they do use the internet and read e-books etc, the eldest told me she prefers 'real' books :)

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    1. My 'landing' is actually a hall as well. :<) I wonder if you ever wrote about seeing her. I'd love to know more details. Love this about your eldest grandchild!

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  4. Nan, here am I, probably the same age(ish) as you, with no children, but a love of children's books. I guess this started many years ago when I was in my late teens and running a children's book department in a large chain bookstore. I often read new publications for children (and there are plenty of really good ones out there), so bless book publishers for keeping on trying! But I do understand what you mean about pad, phones, etc. Keep on with your reading to your two lovely grandchildren! I don't keep books, (except for around 50 for various reasons), but love to urge them onto friends so that they will get the enjoyment I had.

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    1. There is a peace that comes from reading children's books, unless they are the YA problem books. I love picture books, and middle grade fiction.

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  5. I agree about the new kiddos and screens. I always think it interesting when I'm walking through the grocery store and see little ones holding their mother's phones or iPads. But then I also remember how my own girl was fascinated by the videos that were a newish thing when she was young. And I read to her on and on and on. I do think that many parents are still reading to their children. Here's hoping that continues always. I've not read this book, but since I'm now finally reading some of Susan Hill's writings, I'm putting it on my list. A chapter a day sounds perfect.

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    1. This is one of my very favorite books!

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  6. Loved this book the first and second times I read it, and can feel a third coming on! I was actually at the event Margaret attended, and it was lovely to meet her.
    I love the idea of having it alongside Howards End on your shelves - and also love that you have two copies of Howards End!

    A sort-of sequel is supposedly coming out this year - Virginia Woolf is in My Kitchen.

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    1. That's so great that you and Margaret met!!! I'm beyond excited about VWiiMK. I've been all over the internet looking for it, and from what I've found, it sounds like it came out last fall in hardcover and will come out this fall in paperback. But I can't find the hardcover version anywhere. Thanks so much for coming by and letting me know.

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