Monday, September 24, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - September

Susan Hill's September entry was only 11 pages, the shortest yet, but somehow it didn't seem short. Perhaps because there were fewer "subjects" with more information on each? September finds her in a rental cottage in France. Doesn't that sound nice? I would like to say, "September finds me in a cottage in the French countryside." The weather however was very hot for some of it, and she, like me, wilts in the heat and humidity. 34º C. which is about 93º F. Yuck. Thank goodness my September has been cooler. We've even had a couple frosts, though they haven't been the "killer" frosts when even covering the tomatoes doesn't help. So we continue to eat tomatoes right off the vine.

Of course what Susan Hill does on such a vacation is to read. She's brought books from home, but also is interested in the books that other renters have left-behind. I love that idea of leaving books you are done with, and picking up some that others have left. It's like those little free libraries that have sprouted up in the US (and other places?).

If you were hoping for a list of authors, as I was, she doesn't disappoint.
They fascinate me, those holiday reads, and I have studied a good many in my time. Indeed, I have compiled a list of the authors whose books - always in paperback - are most often found in rented properties, both at home and in France. I start going through them as soon as I have unpacked and I rarely score fewer than five.
The list does change every few years.
This year the bookcases have contained, in no particular order: Joanna Trollope, Dan Brown, Jenny Colgan, Stephen King, Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Hislop, Ian McEwan, Val McDermid, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Jojo Moyes. And Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Captain Corelli's Mandolin has not been found for a while. 
 Several authors dropped off the bottom a couple years ago - Catherine Cookson, Dean Koontz, Gerald Durrell, Peter Mayle. John le Carré comes and goes.
This year there are a few surprises. Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy is here. So are books by Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Elizabeth Bowen, Patricia Highsmith, Jeanette Winterson - and Jane Austen, Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Hemingway and Raymond Carver. An upmarket bookcase then.
Would you be tickled to find such authors in your rental house?

Susan Hill goes on to discuss Olivia Manning in quite some detail, which pleased me because last year I bought both The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy. Of course, I haven't read them yet, but they wait patiently on my shelf.

I am struck in this month's passage, as I am every month, at what a reader Susan Hill is. Writing of the two trilogies, she says
This summer's re-reading must be my fourth, and each time the books yield something new, perhaps because as I grow older I understand more.
FOUR re-readings!!

You know how in late spring the buzz is always about what the upcoming "summer reads" will be? I've never quite understood because my reading doesn't change with the seasons. And I don't go to the beach. If I did, I'd be swimming or walking, not reading.
... beach reads. I was slightly mortified when a friend on holiday in Turkey reported seeing three people reading one of my crime novels on a beach - I have never taken them too seriously, but for a split second I thought, 'I didn't realise they were as bad as that.' 
What a delight this woman is to me. She is scholarly, interesting, informative, witty, and funny. Reading this book is a bit like taking a course from her, and I am loving it.


  1. Jacob's Room Is Full of Books sounds like a treat to read.

  2. I forgot to pull out Jacob's Room for September until yesterday so it's a good thing it's short. I just took time to google the Balkan trilogy wondering if I would be interested and I think I would although now I tend to skip over any war bits in any book. But seeing that some of it takes place in prewar Bucharest does interest me. Let us know if you read it and how you like it, please.

  3. That is a varied assortment of authors that she mentions. I'm not surprised. I always marvel at what I can see people reading in airports. These days, of course, it's often difficult to see as people read on their phones or Kindles or iPads. That being said, I also think it gives people permission to read whatever they'd like without the thought of someone else judging them - like a juicy romance or a sci-fi book or fantasy. I think it's funny that Hill herself thought of beach reads as somehow obliged to be 'lighter'. Ha!

  4. Ha, I love the comment about her own books being found to be beach reads and her horror at that! Mind you, I think Middlemarch is the perfect beach read, so ...

    I do like seeing what books have been left in places; I get sad when we return to a cottage we've rented a few times in Cornwall and the books I've left myself are all still there!

  5. I am loving all of your posts about this book. It has given me more reading options.
    I love to go through the library in any B&B, little library, or any home to where we are invited.

  6. It's turned chilly here as well, Nan. Cold enough this morning that I thought there might have been a ground frost but the tomatoes survived thank goodness.

    I've reserved the first book of the Balkan trilogy from the library due to Susan Hill's recommendation of it (I reread Jacob's Room a couple of weeks ago). Look forward to trying it as I seem to be a Balkan journey at the moment.

    Used to be it was impossible to go into a charity shop without seeing a copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin but SH is right, not recently.

  7. They are not bad.
    I am a charity shop booklady, and we do have one copy of the Mandolin. I rarely see any and Anne Morrow Lindbergh tho. This week there's a passionate review of her classic "Gift From the Sea." One of the most touching books about her ever is "No More Words." I have read that one twice. Once we had a biography. And now we have no Susan Hill's.

  8. I want to read Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy. I don't have copies of any of them yet, I will have to go searching for them. I did search at the book sale this year without luck.


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