BEGINNING WITH A BEST AMERICAN AWARD-WINNING NARRATIVE, KATHLEEN HILL’S MEMOIR EXPLORES DEFINING MOMENTS OF A LIFE ILLUMINATED BY NOVELS, READ IN NIGERIA AND FRANCE AND IN NEW YORK.
Advance Praise for She Read to Us in The Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels
We’ve always believed that books were like a soundtrack to our lives and that our day to day lives stood in the foreground. But this stunning book tells a different and surprising tale: it is our lives that slip into the background, and books—those fabulous books that alter who we are when we know how to read them or when we’re lucky to have them read to us—can become the real face of our lives.
― Andre Aciman, author of Out of Egypt and Call Me by Your Name
Here is a book that takes up beauty, longing, genius, and spirit — here is solitary thought, not looking to be answered, even by the thinker: a book of originality that leaves the reader less alone.
― Jean Valentine, poet, author of Break the Glass
In this multi-faceted gem of a book, Kathleen Hill, a great reader, pays tribute to the masterworks of literature which have inspired her, and uses her prodigious memory and her lucid prose style to celebrate love and compassion as the most noble and enduring of human qualities.
― Colm Toibin, author of The Master and Brooklyn
In these gorgeous pages, Kathleen Hill explores her own life, and the lives of family and friends, in the company of various novels. The result is a memoir filled with urgency as she struggles to read the world around her, to understand herself, and others, as deeply as Isabel Archer and Lucy Gayheart. This is a wonderful and profound book.
― Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
What a delight this is! Hill captures precisely, beautifully, the tremor of a great book crossing our lives at just the right moment.
― Andrea Barret, author of Archangel and The Voyage of the Narwhal
About the Book
Into the life of the author, a novel appears, as if by chance, and changes everything. As a child in a music class where a remarkable teacher watches over a classmate marked for tragedy, the author comes across Willa Cather’s novel, Lucy Gayheart, and is prepared by fiction for an actual death by drowning of someone near her. Later, recently married and living in a newly independent Nigeria, a teacher now herself, she assigns Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to her students and is instructed by them in the violent legacy of colonialism, and visits an old slave port where she is made aware of her own benighted American innocence. In Nigeria, too, she is given A Portrait of a Lady and deeply ponders her own new marriage through the lens of Isabel Archer’s cautionary fate, remembers her adolescent fear that reading might be a way of avoiding experience. Afterward, spending a year in northern France, she puts Madame Bovary resolutely aside to discover in Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest a detailed guide to the town where she is living, the poverty and suffering hidden within its walls. The memoir closes with a tender account of the author’s friendship with the writer Diana Trilling, whose failing sight inspires a plan to read aloud Proust’s masterwork, an undertaking that requires six years to complete. Faced with Diana’s approaching death and the mysteries of her own life, the author wonders whether reading, after all, may not be experience at its most ardent, its most transforming.
About the Author
Kathleen Hill teaches in the M.F.A. program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her first novel Still Waters in Niger was named a notable book by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Award. The French translation, Eaux Tranquilles, was short-listed for the Prix Femina Étranger. Her second novel Who Occupies This House was selected as an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize XXV, and The Pushcart Book of Short Stories