There was great anticipation in the air in Abingdon tonight for another Mostly Books event featuring popular author Susan Hill. The small hall was packed to hear her talk about her latest book – Howard’s End is on the Landing which I previously reviewed here.
She proved to be a real character, and started her talk with a plea for us not to give up on books in favour of e-readers. She stressed that she’s no Luddite, and recognises that there are good uses for the devices, but begged us all to keep everyone involved in the production of books in a job and to buy real books. She then read a couple of sections from HEIOTL, one very funny about her encounters with Roald Dahl, and the other more poignant about meeting Iris Murdoch when Alzheimers was taking its toll.
She then went on to tell us with great wit about how she wonders about whether certain books like being next to each other on the shelf, how she wonders if they all talk to each other once everyone has gone to bed. She encouraged us to rediscover our bookshelves, to handle our books, and that way find the book that wants to be read. Books have characters; she said “If you pick up a book like ‘A Passage to India’, you don’t have to read it to feel India in the room.” Her daughter Jessica Ruston was also there and talked for a few minutes about sharing a house with a popular author, a Shakespeare scholar and thousands of books. Jessica’s first novel Luxury is just out and looks very different to those of her Mum’s!
One of the questions that had to be asked related to ‘The Final Forty’ – the list at the end of HEIOTL of the forty books she can’t live without. Due to an error, one book had been listed twice – so we had to know what the fortieth book should have been – Crime & Punishment was the answer. At the end she signed books for everyone, but wasn’t terribly talkative – maybe that lovely old house full of books was calling her home.