The reviews of Jacob's Room is Full of Books haven't been all positive. I don't have an opinion yet, but probably will by the end of December. It isn't much like Howards End is on the Landing. It is less about books and authors, at least so far, but I rather like the rambling from one thing to another.
The words from Jabberwocky popped into my head as I sat down to write about the February entry.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax -
Of cabbages and kings -
And why the sea is boiling hot -
And whether pigs have wings."
I'm not a big Lewis Carroll fan, but I do love this. Susan Hill goes from subject to subject, and I wish I were there beside her so I could say, "yes!" or "I don't agree." She even talks of cabbages (!) in the context of the bright colors at the greengrocer.
She writes of not liking stories with fairies in them, preferring goblins and trolls. She says,
What does our individual taste in matters like this, matters that actually don't matter, say about us? I wish I could understand. I am not keen on folk tales either. Or folk songs. Cecil Sharp must have been a bore.I don't like fairies or the scarier creatures. And I would so love to have known Mr Sharp. I am very interested in the work he did. It would have been fun to say that to her, and ask if she had liked the Natasha Solomons book (The Song of Hartgrove Hall), and if she has read Electric Eden.
She wrote of a website where various people offer five books on a theme. She was so interested in this, and I just didn't care at all, but then she began writing of Iris Murdoch's Alzheimer's disease, and my metaphorical ears pricked up.
I have always felt that, in writing his [her husband's] memoir of her decline and then in allowing it to be filmed - the whole sad, sad detailed saga of it - he had betrayed her and, above all, betrayed her dignity. She had no say, no opportunity to say no - or, of course to say yes.As much as I loved the book and the movie, I certainly understand her view, and even agree with it. It is possible though that they may have helped someone who was going along the same path as John Bayley was in those years. And of course, without the movie, we wouldn't have that perfect Hathaway line in Inspector Lewis when he goes into a cluttered house and describes it as the Iris Murdoch school of decorating!
In Howards End is on the Landing, Susan Hill was living in Gloucestershire, and that house seemed my dream place. Her descriptions were so good that I could see it as I read along. There's a nice piece here that talks about this. In Jacob's Room is Full of Books, she has a new home by the sea in Norfolk. She describes it:
Norfolk is the least horsey of all the counties I have ever known. I don't think there is even a hunt. It isn't much of a sheep place either, though there are a few flocks round here. No horses. No sheep. Instead, pigs. Pigs and sugar beets. And churches. And the sea. The sea. ... If you have been born and bred by the sea, you can be content watching it for hours.As I read along I wondered why she moved. I understand the appeal of the water, especially if one is born near the ocean, but leaving that house? Well, this article might explain.
The author does, of course, talk about books.
Not the weather for standing around more than two minutes admiring the spring flowers, the weather for clearing out bookshelves. If we ever leave this house, we will not want to start doing it as the removal men are at the door. I thought I had cleared out all the books I would ever need to lose five years ago, but books breed. They beget second copies because you have mislaid the first and buy another, the day before you find the first. They interbreed, too, so you have The Cambridge Companion to the Bible next to the Oxford ditto, and several copies of Quentin Bell's biography of Virginia Woolf next to the one by Hermione Lee.
And whenever I go to the shelves to start an hour of de-stocking, I come upon a forgotten treasure.Susan Hill's birthday is 20 days before mine, and she says
I found a great quote for a birthday, too, from May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude: 'Do not deprive me of my age. I have earned it.' It gives the lie to all those who want to remain young, and although they surely must know that they cannot do that, they still give it a go, via facelifts and Polyfilla.Later in the February essay, she attempts to de-stock again. Some of the work is easy, like
...ephemeral detective stories you will never re-read, and duplicate copies, the books that don't belong to me, the books that have had coffee or wine spilled over them, been left out in the rain or fallen in the bath and retrieved, more in hope than in expectation of a good outcome.She then goes on to talk of "small collections" she has made over the years.
Most people have obsessions and these usually come and go. Once you have fallen out of love with your passion, you do not want books about it to take up several yards of shelf space, though you may feel fond and nostalgic enough to save one. Or perhaps two.One of Susan Hill's passions might surprise the reader. Not, of course, Virginia Woolf books, either by her or about her, but an obsession with Marilyn Monroe?!
I ended January's installment by saying that I was going to re-read Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf, and I did begin on her birthday, January 25, but I put the book back on the shelf because I realized that I wanted to read a print book that I haven't already read. I do hope to get back to it, but unless I begin reading more than one print book a month, I really must pick up those unread books.