Review published on December 8, 2017.
Susan Hill’s latest foray into non-fiction is entitled Jacob’s Room is Full of Books: A Year of Reading, so naturally this is a book that concerns itself with books. And yet, it’s also somewhat less definitive than that, certainly part literary journal but also part nature journal, part essay, part general musings. There’s also a really interesting line in who’s who, as the author refers to several famous faces along the way. But for me, the real attraction in this book is the author’s thoughts on literature, not just the books she reads, but the state of publishing, the predicament of libraries and bookshops, and what it means to be a writer. The chapters are split into the months of the year and within each chapter discussions are split into easy-to-manage morsels and the author slips seamlessly from topic to topic, so rather than one long narrative, this reads much more in the vein of a diary. By and large, the entries are a perfect length, not too long as to become didactic, but on occasion I wanted to hear even more of the author’s point of view on certain topics, as she writes so knowledgeably and interestingly on all manner of literary subjects in particular. And the insight readers get into her bookshelves is one of the most fascinating aspects of the book. She really encapsulates the old saying that to be a writer you must first be a reader, with shelves bursting with all kinds of fictional and non-fictional works. Other elements of the book such as the observations on the natural world didn’t work as well for me, simply because they’re outside of my sphere of interest, but for many a reader, I imagine the combination will be perfect. As for me, I took plenty away from this concise notebook, not least even more books to add to my reading list!
Jade Craddock 4/-
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill
Profile Books 9781781250808 hbk Oct 2017
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