The Story of Twenty One Books

That’s the sum of this month’s book shopping – it was an exceptionally good month.

This may be a long post, but I resolved to record all of my purchases this year.

* * * * * * *

20150328_171336These were ‘library building’ purchases. I have a dozen or so authors whose books I am gradually collecting as and when affordable copies appear.

I knew that I wouldn’t be able to give back the library’s copy of The Flowering Thorn back until I had a copy to keep – that’s always the way with Margery Sharp – and I spotted a Fontana edition that was if not cheap then at least much less expensive than many. I do like Fontana paperbacks, but I have to say that in this instance the image and the tagline suggest that the artist and the writer haven’t read the books.

And the rather nondescript book that one is resting on is an first edition of ‘Return I Dare Not’ by Margaret Kennedy!

* * * * * * *

The next round of shopping was not at my expense – because I won £50 of books from Harper Collins! At first I was overwhelmed by the choice, but when I saw Vintage on the list of imprints my path became clear.


  • ‘A Long Time Ago’ filled another gap in my Margaret Kennedy collection.
  •  Remembering Darlene’s words of praise, I picked ‘Here Be Dragons’ to add to my Stella Gibbons collection
  •  ‘A Street Haunting and Other Essays’ by Virginia Woolf looked too lovely to resist
  •  Several people recommended ‘The Black Count’ by Tom Reiss after I fell in love with The Count of Monte Cristo’ so I took their advice.
  • And of course I was going to have a copy of Victoria Glendinning’s much lauded biography of Anthony Trollope!

I’d say that was £50 very well invested.

* * * * * * *

Visits to two charity shops I hadn’t been into for a long time paid dividends.


I remember my parents reading Nevil Shute and Howard Spring, I loved the books from their shelves that I read years ago, and so I was delighted to find two titles I didn’t know in lovely editions.

I saw ‘Death of an Avid Reader’ by Frances Brody in the library and though I liked the look of it I didn’t pick it up because I knew that I had copies of earlier books in the same series at home unread. But when I spotted a like new copy I had to bring it home.

I was always going to pounce on a book by Francis Brett Young that I didn’t have on my shelves. I love his writing. I hesitated over this one because it’s a history of England in verse, but in the end I decided that I didn’t pick this one up I might never see another copy and I might live to regret it. When I came home I remembered that I loved the extract I knew, and I knew that I had made the right decision.

* * * * * * *

I picked up two more books when I dropped off several bags of books to another charity shop.

20150328_171629A lovely hardback edition of the collected stories of Jane Gardam that was only published last year for £2 was a wonderful bargain.

I don’t know much about R C Hutchison – and the dust jacket of this book doesn’t give much away – but I picked the book up because it was in condition and it clearly dated from one of my favourite eras. I found some 1950s leaflets from the reprints of society, that somebody must have used as bookmarks inside, adverting authors including Winifred Holtby, Somerset Maugham, Howard Spring and Margery Sharp. I too that as a sign that I should buy the book. When I got home and looked up Hutchinson I found that he had been reissued by Faber Finds and by Bloomsbury Reader, which has to be a good sign.

* * * * *

And then there was the Oxfam Shop.


I can only assume that someone with very similar taste to me had been clearing out, because among lots of books I already own I found:

  • Two more by Jane Gardam
  •  Two British Library Crime Classics I I hadn’t meant to start collecting but now I have four and I think maybe I am.
  • Childhood memoirs by Marcel Pagnol, whose books inspired two of my favourite films – ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon Du Source.’

I looked in again next time I was passing, just in case there were any more. There weren’t, but I found this.

I know the library have copies, but it was such a nice set.

* * * * * * *

Just one more – a brand new hardback that I just had to run out and buy – another  ‘library building’ purchase.


“The winter of 1924: Edith Olivier, alone for the first time at the age of fifty-one, thought her life had come to an end. For Rex Whistler, a nineteen-year-old art student, life was just beginning. Together, they embarked on an intimate and unlikely friendship that would transform their lives. Gradually Edith’s world opened up and she became a writer. Her home, the Daye House, in a wooded corner of the Wilton estate, became a sanctuary for Whistler and the other brilliant and beautiful younger men of her circle: among them Siegfried Sassoon, Stephen Tennant, William Walton, John Betjeman, the Sitwells and Cecil Beaton – for whom she was ‘all the muses’.

Set against a backdrop of the madcap parties of the 1920s, the sophistication of the 1930s and the drama and austerity of the Second World War and with an extraordinary cast of friends and acquaintances, Anna Thomasson brings to life, for the first time, the fascinating, and curious, friendship of a bluestocking and a bright young thing.“

* * * * * * *

I’ve stayed out of bookshops today, so that is definitely it for March.

It’s been a bit mad – some lovely review copies have landed too – but there won’t be many months like that.

Though we’ll be visiting one or two bookshops when we have a week’s holiday in Devon next month …..

41 responses

  1. Wow! What an absolutely wonderful set of finds, Jane! I’m very impressed! Library building is a great thing and I do too much of it but I *am* trying to be selective now! 🙂 All those Woolfs are lovely.

    • I’m very focused on library building these days – because I’m running out of house room and I’m increasingly aware that I can only read a limited number of books in a single lifetime. All but one or two of these are keepers I think. I should thank you for the Woolf, because I think it was your mention of another Vintage collection of her work a while ago that sent me towards mine.

      • It’s a good way to be about books, I think – I’m going through the same kind of thing, trying to be realistic about whether I *will* actually read a book or not, and getting rid of those I’ve bought with a “maybe one day” in mind, as life just isn’t long enough! 🙂

  2. What a lovely monthful! I’m looking forward to getting back to the Trollope biography…and since none of the libraries I have access to have A Curious Friendship (which I’ve been seeing around) I think an international purchase may be forthcoming. It’s fun to collect writers, isn’t it? I’ve done that with Angela Thirkell and Laurie Colwin…

  3. A wonderful stack! The Far Country is one of my favorite of Nevil Shute’s books. I’m looking forward to reading my first Jane Gardam book, a copy of Old Filth that I found at a library sale. I don’t know some of the other authors so I’ll look forward to hearing more about them.

  4. That cover of The Flowering Thorn is priceless! Now I’m REALLY curious to read it. And hurrah for Jane Gardam. I think I’m going to have to buy that edition of the Stories, lucky you to find such a bargain.

  5. What a gorgeous haul! I love the look of the Woolfs. Congratulations on winning £50 of books from Harper Collins, a lovely bonus! Enjoy your reading.

    I’m nearing the end of my #TBR20 so I hope to be able to buy a few books in the not-too-distant future.

  6. Oh, I’m so envious. I find all our local charity shops – and a huge charity book sale i went to yesterday – full of dreary best-selling newish paperbacks, nothing old, nothing the least bit literary. I have read one R C Hutchinson, I think it was titled ‘The Stepmother’, and I loved it. Happy reading.

    • It’s like that her quite often, Jane, but every so often interesting older books turn up. Thank you for endorsing R C Hutchinson – I’ve read some critical praise but not much from ‘real readers.’

  7. Wow that’s a good selection ! I did have a bit of a little binge earlier on in March, to cheer myself up. You have some interesting book choices there and I look forward to reading about some of them.

  8. Hi Fleur, earlier this month I emailed you asking if you’d like to have a copy of Winds of the Day by Howard Spring. Haven’t heard from you, if you don’t want it then it will go onto the pile of books destined for our local hospice charity shop. It’s hardback, no dust wrapper, no charge for the book, as I most likely picked it up cheaply somewhere or other..

  9. Great haul – and how lovely to win a prize too. I think The Far Country was the first Nevil Shute I read as a teenager – I went on to devour the lot, but haven’t ventured back to re-read … yet.

    • The only two my parents had were A Town Named Alice and On The Beach, so the rest of Nevil Shute’s works will be first time reads. I have done very well this month, and the prize was a lovely bonus.

  10. Oh my what an amazing haul. I love that set of the Quentin Bell Virginia Woolf books, Vintage do make lovely books don’t they? Congratulations on your win too what a lovely prize.
    I went book buying barmy recently , confessional post up tomorrow. 🙂

  11. What a brilliant month you’ve had – Neville Shute is a blast from the past, we had some in our house too but I’d forgotten all about them until this post. Happy reading and well done on some fantastic finds 🙂

  12. What a glorious set of purchases and wins, Jane! So much to comment on, so I will restrict myself to the last – A Curious Friendship is a really wonderful book, and I’m confident you’ll love it. So engrossing, and moving.

  13. I love posts about book purchases so much. Something about the abundance of choices is just lovely. Haven’t read any of these except the Pagnols which are lovely especially in the summer and I did read and enjoy the one Mavis Doriel Hay book I found, which was Death on the Cherwell. I love murder mysteries set in schools. I hope the one you bought ends up being as good!

  14. Oooh it’s lovely to see all these gorgeous purchases! How great to find the British Library classics in Oxfam. I have two of those, the cover designs are lovely aren’t they. And the Vintage editions are beautiful. I’ve read the first of the Frances Brody books in this series and enjoyed it. Another series with lovely covers.

    • I’ve been very lucky this month, and I was so surprised to see those British Library classics. I really must start of Frances Brody’s books – I do like the look of them and they’ve been waiting for ages.

  15. ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon Du Source.’ are two of my favourite films too! I own the books as well, but haven’t read them yet. I’m a bit worried they wouldn’t be as good as the films – something I’ve never worried about before!! Perhaps you’ll read one soon and let me know if the books are as good/better.

  16. Library Building is a lovely phrase to use – I call it “adhering to my collections policy” when I’m collecting in the various areas where the books get kept and they can cling to fellows on the shelves. What a GLORIOUS collection you have here – so many happy hours to come!

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