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.