An Evening with Susan Hill

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.

P.S. It was also lovely to see fellow bloggers in the audience – Simon from Stuck in a Book and also, especially, Margaret from BooksPlease again as she will be moving up north very soon.

7 thoughts on “An Evening with Susan Hill

  1. Lovely review, it was nice to see you again, and an especially nice surprise to meet Margaret – I hadn't known she'd be there.

  2. It was an interesting evening indeed.Though I do think Ms Hill is overly pessimistic about the future of the 3D book as I've just blogged myself.

  3. Laura – I wish I'd known you were there, apologies for not recognising you, (I was selling books in a green t-shirt).She's came across to me as very interesting, but I'd have loved to get underneath the exterior a little more – but she said she'd never write an autobiography …

  4. Never mind Gaskella – another time! Perhaps I shall wear my own (black) 'Poet Laura-eate' t-shirt next time.I don't think Susan Hill likes the limelight actually and she more or less said so during the talk, commenting that she never had anything to say about her novels and it was only the nature of this particular book and the fact that she feels so worried about the e-Book issue that has prompted her to 'evangelise' now!As a performer myself, I always yearn to give most authors a lesson in microphone technique, but must admit, she did manage quite well without one. Then again, wood panelled rooms are naturally acoustic rooms which helps.

  5. Annabel, I think Laura is right – Susan Hill does not seem at ease in the limelight – very much a private person. I enjoyed her talk, her passion for books came over well. I've only queued for an author's signature twice before and find this one an embarrassing moment.

  6. Laura, Margaret, I agree. I just found it a bit strange that for someone with forthright views on the world as seen in her blog and articles etc, that she won't talk generally about her own books – the inspiration, research – all the usual things.Mind you, I find it easier to be more extrovert here than in person too!

  7. P.S. Mostly Books in Abingdon has signed copies available – ideal Christmas prezzies! 01235 525880

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