Monday, March 15, 2010


What with having to work for a living it’s been a while since I’ve had much success in tracking down a decent haul of second hand book treasure. It doesn’t help that most the second hand shops within walking distance are charity ones – I understand the policy of only taking nice new clean looking books but from my point of view it’s not making for the most interesting selection.

I did actually spend some time in an age concern shop on Saturday trying to work what the stunning number of Dan Brown’s on the shelf says about the city – undiscerning enough to buy the book (bad) or discerning enough to dispose of it forthwith (good). The other book that I find disconcertingly ubiquitous in charity shops is Elaine Dundy’s ‘The Old Man and Me’; last year it was Miles Franklin’s ‘My Brilliant Career’ (why when it’s a Virago book it’s never an unread Muriel Spark is one of life’s mysterious injustices), but really – why ‘The Old Man and Me’? Did everybody get it for Christmas having already bought a copy or what? It sometimes occurs to me to wonder what I might be doing now if I had given my career as much thought as I give things like this, possibly for example I would have had a career rather than jobs – but where would be the fun in that.

Today however has been a red letter day, thanks to all the travelling over the last few weeks I had a day off to take (bonus of a job over a career where I daresay days off are for wimps) and as the blond is on holiday we went off on a tour of the county’s booksellers. First stop was the town I went to school in. It acquired a Waitrose last week which is the only improvement it’s seen in the last twenty years, it’s sadly lost the very decent independent bookshop that once lived on a corner of the high street and now only has a couple of shelves in an age concern. With the lightening reflexes born of trying to stop wine bottles before they hit a stone floor I managed to grab the only interesting looking book in the place before the blond even noticed it. She says I reminded her of one of those frogs with the long sticky tongues when they’re catching flies. I got Sybille Bedford’s ‘Compass Error’ for £1 so am happy to rise above the allusion.

After that we moved on to a town I used to work in – it gave me a bit of an advantage because I know the book hotspots and she didn’t. Like the good friend I am I shamelessly took advantage of my knowledge to head straight for the best shelves and can report that it totally paid off. I managed to get a lovely copy of ‘Henrietta’s War’ by Joyce Dennys which I have wanted since Bloomsbury bought it out but have never felt I had the money for. Very pleased. I also found ‘The Camomile’ by Catherine Carswell, which sounds interesting but mostly I fell in love with the cover, and Sarah Scott’s ‘Millenium Hall’ which I’ve never heard of before, but which is apparently an important and visionary work about a utopian women’s commune written in 1762.

The blond didn’t buy any books and rightly treated me to the odd dark look until I introduced her to a purveyor of excellent sandwiches. Restored by food we called into a craft shop to find ourselves being harangued by a very racist man with a passion for cross stitch at which point it seemed like time to come home.


  1. That's a fabulous haul of new books.

    The used bookstores around here seem to be overflowing with copies of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, and last year there was a plethora of Eat Pray Love (which I should really get around to reading one day). It's a shame we can't switch stores for the day - after a decade of scouring used bookstores, I've never managed to find a copy of My Brilliant Career.

  2. *envious* I enjoyed The compass error, and saw Millennium Hall the other day waft past my eyes at work. So I promptly added it to my wish list...I haven't heard of The camomile yet though.

    I haven't come across The old man which is a shame as I need to read it for VVV!

  3. Verity, I see it everywhere (though having said that if I go and look for it doubtless I won't find it at all) but if you would like me to pick you up a copy next time I see one I'm happy to.

    Makedoandread, a short history of tractors I can understand, it appears a lot here as well, I do find it strangely fascinating to see which books people are clearly buying but not keeping.

  4. I am very envious of your wonderful bookish haul. A Bloomsbury Group book already hitting the second-hand shelves?! How very lucky. I also adore your gorgeous green Viragos. I adore these, but have only been lucky enough to spot one or two. Most of my VMCs are the very colourful newish ones.

  5. Wonderful! I haven't heard of the last two and will be looking forward to you reading them and telling us what they're about!

    I know what you mean about one book appearing everywhere - it always makes me question whether the book's any good, if people are so willing to part with it en masse.

  6. Madame, The dark looks will continue until you cease to behave like a rugby player on speed. Thanking you. x

  7. Catherine Carswell interests me. I haven't heard of Camomile but I picked up a copy of Open the Door last year. Lovely to see some VMCs I've not heard of.

  8. Lyn, Carswell interests me too, I fell in love with the cover of the book, and would have bought it anyway just for that, but it sounds like it'll be a good read someday as well. At the moment it's pretty far down on my list of things to read though. When I've done a bit more research on carswell it might Jump up.