It’s a feat I can never quite manage – visiting a bookshop and leaving empty-handed, particularly when said bookshop is as so full of treasures as the lovely Hungerford Bookshop. I visited Hungerford on my penultimate day in the UK before flying back to Los Angeles with hand luggage only. My bag was already overflowing with books – one, a gift from my father, one a former Women’s Prize for Fiction winner purchased at Wells Waterstones, two more bought from Wells charming and French-like Saturday market, a further two sent to me for review on this very blog. Suffice it to say, I was certainly not in need of any more books.
I used to spend a lot of time in Hungerford, and its one of those town that has managed to retain a certain charm that others haven’t. And while I have spent many an hour perusing the isles of the various antiques houses, it’s always the bookshop I return to with such glee. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular when browsing the bookshelves, but Susan Hill’s Jacob’s Room is Full of Books immediately caught my eye, and so I soon left with this book and a second, vowing to start on Hill’s as soon as I could.
As any ex-pat visiting home will know, hours are short, and to be spent with friends and family, so it wasn’t until my train ride to Gatwick that I managed to start her book; though, happily it was the perfect accompaniment for my ten hour flight to Los Angeles, and I was to turn the very last page shortly before landing.
I’ve only read one of Hill’s many books before – The Woman in Black – and was thus very interested to find out more about her reading life.
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books is a wonderful love letter to literature, full of book recommendations a-plenty, musings on various writers, and debate over which books to re-read, and which to gift to charity. We, too, are treated to an account of where and when particular books are read, and Hill’s wonderful descriptions of place and weather (my favourite: ‘New year non weather. Wet. Dank. Grey. Chilly but not winter cold.’), from beneath a shady tree in a hot French summer, to the warmth of a kitchen during an English winter, add a wonderfully cozy element to the book.
As an ardent reader, I adore books about books, and this is the best one I’ve yet read. Hill offers her readers a wonderful insight into the richness of her reading life, and will leave them with a whet appetite for many more books unread.
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