Anyway, as I generally do, I plumped for second-hand rather than new, because it means the books are cheaper, and you get more of them! Shallow, I know, but I’ve always been attracted by quantity rather than quality, but whittling down that extensive wish list was well-nigh impossible – and my purchases haven’t made any impact on it all. I spent an evening trawling through Amazon and AbeBooks to see what was available, and in the end based my choices on the fact that books must be published by Persephone or Virago, and they should be ‘paired’ in some way. Well, it narrowed the field a bit…
Woo hoo! Every day this week the postman has delivered a book (or books), thanks to my lovely Mother, who gave me some money when I was staying with her last week, and told me to treat myself – so I bought novels which, hopefully, will be a treat to read, and I shall have them to enjoy for ever!
The problem, of course, is what to buy. I’m never any good at making decisions and I don’t whether to buy titles I know I love because I’ve borrowed them from the library or from friends, or whether to opt for new volumes on the wish list. And I was really tempted to splurge on some brand new Persephones, or to browse round Waterstones in Birmingham, or visit some other bookish town for the day and just see what takes my fancy.
Sadly there is no book shop in Tamworth. Can you imagine that? Even The Works (which isn’t a proper bookshop at all, though you can pick up the occasional goodie if you search hard), closed down. So, on the rare occasions I’m let loose in a book store and have cash to spare I’m like a child in a sweet shop and indulge in what can only be described as the literary equivalent of a deprived dieter’s binge eating session .
So, what have I got? There’s a lovely Virago Modern Classic selection of short stories by Sylvia Townsend-Warner, which is in fabulous condition, and looks as if it has never been read. And I bought Mr Fortune’s Maggot AND I’d already spotted an old VMC of After The Death of Don Juan (not pictured) which I haven’t read yet so, as you can see, I’ve developed a bit of a passion for STW’s work. And I really want a copy of the letters between her and William Maxwell, and a decent biography – can anyone out there recommend one? Please!
There’s a nice copy of Angela Thirkell’s Wild Strawberries, because I enjoyed High Rising and Cheerfulness Breaks In so much, and to go with that Greenery Street by her brother Denis McKail, because it sounds as if I would like it, and at the moment I seem to be hooked on novels from the 20s and 30s. Surprisingly, the McKail arrived with its bookmark intact, which was very pleasing.
I’ve had my open for Agnes Jekyll’s Kitchen Essays for ages, and I’ve already had a quick look through, and it’s quite enchanting. I love cookery books and people’s thoughts about food and ingredients. I paired it with Few Eggs and No Oranges, the wartime diaries of Vere Hodgson, because both authors seem to write from a very personal point of view.
Finally, I snapped up Miss Buncle’s Book, by DE Stevenson, which has been at the top of my wanted catalogue since I read Mrs Tim, plus I’m part-way into Amberwell, which was another Oxfam buy.
I’m quite pleased with my selection. I know I’ve played safe by choosing things I’m fairly sure I will like, and perhaps I should have been more adventurous, but I can try out new things at the library, and books are meant o be enjoyed, so what’s the point in buying something by an author I don’t usually like, or in genre I don’t connect with?
And I didn’t spend all my money – I’m spreading it out, so I have something to look forward to over the next few months, and I can get half a dozen or so at a time. That means I can acquire my own copies of some Mollie Panter-Browne, along with more Tove Janssen, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Whittle and Elizabeth Taylor. And I want to read Patience, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, Miss Ranskill Comes Home, The Fortnight in September, and some adult work from Noel Streatfeald and Richmal Crompton and all sorts of other things… the list is endless.
And I can plan some days out, by train, because I get so het up about driving. First a return trip to Oxford, for a tour of the Bodleian and its Magical Books exhibition, and I can browse around the second-hand bookshops, and enjoy tea and cake somewhere. And I want to go to Worcester, because King John is buried there, and I was brought up in Egham, which is where Runnymede is, where Magna Carta was signed – and there must be book shops in Worcester. And there are places in Birmingham connected to JRR Tolkien, and the Johnson Birthplace in Lichfield, is always interesting, the museum at Nuneaton has a lot about Gorge Eliot.
I am such a lucky girl to be able to treat myself to books and trips, and I’ve sent Mum a copy of Pickwick Papers, as a small thank you, as she had to get rid of her hardback editions of Dickens when she moved because a) she didn’t have room for them, and b) the print was not easy to read. It may not sound much of a pressie, but she was pleased.
If any of you have any recommendations for books you think I might enjoy, please let me know – and the same goes if you know anywhere with good bookshops or literary links that’s near Birmingham and doesn’t involve me using the M42! And I’d love to hear your ideas about the benefits of buying new or used books – I know some people have really strong views about wanting to support small independent bookstores.