Help me out there book-lovers: Do you find yourselves getting sucked into reading books about books? That is how Sixpence House came into my hands. I will admit when I hopped on goodreads.com to mark that I’d finished this particular book, I caught some snippets of the reviews and I had to chuckle. I don’t read reviews before I read books, typically. Then, I don’t like to read reviews before I review so as not to taint my own reviews. That is right, one (maybe two?) regular readers. These are the struggles I go through to present my own unbiased opinions. At any rate, I disliked this book, but let me tell you about it before I tell you why.
Paul Collins and his wife and toddler lived in San Francisco but then picked up stakes and moved to Hay-on-Wye in Wales. For all the uninitiated in Welsh, Hay-on-Wye translates to “Town of Books”. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? I’m assuming that is what Collins and his wife thought. They then proceed to come to Wales, move houses a bunch, fail to grasp the intricacies of UK real estate, all while Collins works on a book he is getting published. Along the way, the Collins’ encounter various book sellers and other characters that make their stay interesting. It all sounds very charming, and at the same time, it isn’t charming at all. To put it mildly. Paul Collins is irritating, no he’s insufferable. As a reasonable adult, if I owned (or even rented) a place in San Fransisco, I wouldn’t move to an entirely different country without hefty savings and a real job. Collins has neither of these. His observations about the difference between the US and everywhere else are hilariously, erroneously, general and trite. I’d draw your attention to the little episode where Morgan (the toddler) has to go to the Dr. and oh how the Collins’ congratulate themselves over the miraculous free healthcare. First point, the kid didn’t need the emergency care. Second point, they didn’t work in the Scottish parliament during the hospital closures in 2003 and 2004 so the British healthcare system isn’t as black and white as it appears on paper.
So basically, what Sixpence House reads like, is a blog of a self important hipster. The type of hipster who believes that he is too enlightened to be a hipster. Can Collins write? Yes, he can craft a story that follows a logical flow. Is this particular non fiction worth reading? No. I’d be interested in his other books, but this memoir fell into that trap of believing that your life is interesting to others. Collins doesn’t have wisdom to share. He hasn’t overcome obstacles or achieved anything terribly great. I don’t recommend this book, even to people who love to read books about books.