Friday, 14 January 2011

Howards End Is On The Landing

Gosh, I did go off on a bit of rant the other day, didn’t I? I’m not sure what brought that on.
I think I may have changed my opinion slightly. Possibly.
This is partly thanks to Susan Hill whose marvellous book, Howards End Is On The Landing, I’m currently reading. 
It was such a relief to learn that I’m not the only one who has books all over the house in a higgledy-piggledy fashion. I don’t categorise or put them in alphabetical order. Just a quick glance across at the shelf in my office, I see that Cashelmara by Susan Howatch sits comfortably next to Hope Against Hope by Sally Zigmond, then The Queen’s Confession by Victoria Holt, then Bestseller by Celia Brayfield, then The Book of Love by Sarah Bower followed by Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter, and so it goes on.
Every now and then, and Wednesday must have been one of those days, I feel the need to clear clutter and create order. My perfectionist tendencies kick in, and I want to wipe the slate clean and start again. It’s interesting that I chose to clean out a kitchen cupboard then, too! 
Is there such a thing as clutter when it comes to books? 
On the same day I wrote the previous blog entry, I decided to pick six books I hadn’t read from my shelves and put them in a little pile on the floor in front of the sofa. The intention was to read through twenty pages or so, before deciding whether to give them away or not. In my first pile of six I discovered two books I wanted to continue reading. The first was A Good Life by Jan Fortune-Wood. I couldn’t put it down and read it in less than twenty-four hours (although the ending was slightly disappointing). I had met Jan at a home-educators seaside festival a few years ago and read her non-fiction books about home schooling. To be honest, I didn’t really expect much of her novel, partly because it was published by a little known independent publisher, Bluechrome. I was therefore very pleasantly surprised. It is basically an exploration of family secrets, dreams and lies. It is about the way memory is reconstructed and how those closest to us can wreak harm and betrayal, but, above all, it is about the power of the human spirit to live in hope and nurture new life. The second was Here Today by Zoe Fairbairns. I’ve read a couple of Zoe’s novels previously, both of which I enjoyed. I think what put me off this particular one was the fact that it was a second-hand book in rather poor condition. It gives a wonderful glimpse into life in London in the early 1980s, and the way women were still treated as second-class citizens. It centres around the threat of new technology in the world of temping typists. Not quite as engaging as A Good Life, but a wonderful insight into a bygone era.
Reading Howards End Is On The Landing has made me realise that it’s very much a case of ‘horses for courses’ when it comes to books. It’s all down to mood. Sometimes you might feel that a biography hits the spot, and other times it might be one of the classics. I guess we’re back to the food analogy. Some days you feel like eating nothing but currant buns and chocolate, then the next day you can’t get enough of brown rice and broccoli.
Finally, a wonderful quote, which my daughter found printed on a little laminated card inside one of her Michael Murpurgo books this evening: ‘Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.’ - Henry Ward Beecher.


Anonymous said...

Just re-read a Zoe Fairbairns novel too - Daddy's Girls - and enjoyed it just as much as first time around. Written I think in the nineties but evokes 60s and 70s tremendously well.

Jo said...

Ali, I also have Daddy's Girls on my bookshelf. It's years since I read it and time for a re-read, I think!

Joanna said...

I love the sound of Zoe Fairbairn's novel. I should love to read that.

I have mountains of books with bookmarks inserted a short way in. I guess I just didn't want to continue with them and probably would have to re-start at the beginning anyway. Maybe those books should go. Those forlorn bookmarks hanging out(mostly faded supermarket receipts) are telling me something.

My problem is that I get carried away and order books I fancy on Amazon, then let them pile up. My husband keeps being nagged to put up more shelves for them, when I really ought to take lots of them to charity shops instead. He reads a massive amount of non-fiction, but always finishes one before he starts another. However, they still end up in a huge pile because he doesn't like getting rid of them. One day we won't be able to get through the door for book mountains.

Jo said...

Joanna, like you I get carried away ordering books I fancy on amazon, then don't get round to reading them. I have books on my shelves I've forgotten all about buying till I have a sort out. I'm also addicted to Persephone books, which I'll never part with, as they're so beautiful to look at on the shelf and are collectors items. Persephone has an offer on at the moment and I'm sorely tempted!!!

Joanna said...

I love Persephone too and find them very hard to resist. It'd those beautiful end-papers and the lovely covers, as well as the gorgeous novels and stories inside them!
I find paperbacks easier in bed. My Keith Richards biography is very heavy and the spine keeps creaking alarmingly loudly. My husband thought the bed was collapsing.

Flowerpot said...

I must read that - I've heard so much about it. Will put on library list now! Could you email me whenyou have a moment please Jo? I'd like to ask your advice -
Many thanks

Words A Day said...

I'm really enjoying my copy of the yellow room! I love that its glossy and the cover photo is beautiful! Its a great read and the letters page is a nice touch. Thanks!

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And yes, it’s a free download: