We are on holiday ….

….. in a part of the world that has inspired authors to read lovely books like these:


The will be days out, and there will be quiet days pottering about, when a certain amount of reading will be done.

A certain small, brown dog will have her own half acre of meadow.

She hopes that when she come home her promenade will be open again.

We’ll see you then!

More of my New Design for my Reading Life

I wrote a while ago that I’m aware that I’ve read less then I used to, and less than I might, and that I’ve been spending far too much time working on plans and lists, and hunting down books. I’m happy with the projects I have in place now, that I have the right balance of plans to give me direction and freedom to read what I want to read.

Now I need to address something more fundamental.

I live in a house full of books, many of them are unread, and the number unread – and the number of books I want to read again – is growing and growing.

That means I need a change in outlook.

I need to be more aware of the books that I have, the books that I do want to read, and be a little more patient when I find that there are more desirable books out there in the world.

I’m not going to give up new books, and I’m not going to read a book just because it’s here in the house, but I need to strike a better balance.

How do I do that?

* * * * * * *

Well, I’m accepting the Double Dog Dare from James Reads Books

All you have to do to win the TBR Double Dog Dare is to read only from your TBR pile between January 1 and April 1. You can still buy books, you just can’t read them until the TBR Double Dog Dare is over. You can make exceptions ….

tbr-dare-2014Here’s my plan.

For three months I will read:

  • Library books that were in the house on the first day of the new year.
  • Books that I owned on that same day.
  • Just the occasional review book, that I really want to read and will read straight away.
  • Books that I’m hoping might arrive on my birthday.

I’m going to find giving up the library trickier than giving up book buying, but I have a plan. The man in the house has agreed to take books back so that I won’t be tempted to borrow more, and I can’t resist a visit I’ll borrow books that I own or books that I’ve already read, just to help their statistics and support the library.

I’m not sure that I can do this, but I have to try. I’m going to take it one month at a time and see what happens …..

* * * * * * *

I’m making some specific plans for books on my shelves too.

Amanda at Simpler Pastimes has a Classics Children Literature Event next month.

2015_childrens_lit_originalI have some interesting possibilities:

The Young Pretenders by Edith Henrietta Fowler (1895)

The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Eleanor Graham (1938)

Mermaid House by Gwendoline Courtney (1953)

An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden (1956)

Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge (1964)

And there are one or two more events I have books ready for a little further ahead ….

* * * * * * *

And I know that there are one or two other things I can do – I’m not going to talk about them now, they’ll happen as and when – to try to make sure that I’m choosing the best books to read from the ones on my shelves and the ones out there in the big wide world.

That’s all I want to do ….

A New Design for a Reading Life

I have read many wonderful books this year, but something has gone wrong.

tumblr_lwvmyjdxHY1qz71rio1_400I’m aware that I’ve read less then I used to, and less than I might, and that I’ve been spending far too much time working on plans and lists, and hunting down books.

I will always love a project, I will always follow the links from book to book, but I need to do things differently so that my plans and projects are working for me, making sure I continue to read the authors I love, guiding me towards new possibilities, and making sure that my reading time really is reading time.

I’ve been through a lot of ideas over the last few weeks and now I think I have a plan.

* * * * * * *

I’ve ditched my 100 Years of Books project.

Reading the 20th Century was lovely – and I don’t rule out doing it again one day – but the 1850  to 1949 century wasn’t working.  Huge numbers of books congregated in some years and other years offered nothing at all. And suddenly every book that called me was either too late or too early.

So out it goes.

* * * * * * *

My Non Fiction Adventure stays, a list of books that I want to read and I’m allowed to alter.

I’ve read almost entirely fiction – and knitting books – this year , and the non fiction is piling up.

* * * * * * *

I’ve rebuilt my Classics Club list, around the books I’ve read since the club began. The books that were there just because I ought to read them and the books that I’ve lost interest in have gone; and the books I forgot and the books that I’ve discovered since I made my first list have arrived.

It’s still one book for author so that The Classics Club can introduce – and re-introduce – me to as many authors as possible.

I’ll follow up the ones I love; I’ve been doing that since the start.

I think – I hope – that these are the right classics for me:

  1. The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox (1752)
  2. Emmeline by Charlotte Turner Smith (1788)
  3. A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe (1790)
  4. A Simple Story by Elizabeth Inchbold (1791)
  5. The Coquette by Hannah W Foster (1797)
  6. The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott (1816)
  7. The Collegians by Gerard Griffin (1829)
  8. Helen by Maria Edgworth (1834)
  9. Old Goriot by Honore Balzac (1835)
  10. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
  11. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (1848)
  12. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery (1848)
  13. The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard (1852)
  14. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1852)
  15. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853)
  16. Villette by Charlotte Bronte (1853)
  17. The Daisy Chain by Charlotte M Yonge (1856)
  18. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857)
  19. Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot (1857)
  20. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1859)
  21.  Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade (1861)
  22. Henry Dunbar by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1864)
  23. Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu (1864)
  24. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (1865)
  25. The Fortunes of the Rougons by Emile Zola (1871)
  26. Hester by Margaret Oliphant (1873)
  27. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)
  28. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877)
  29. The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green (1878)
  30. Moths by Ouida (1880)
  31. Belinda by Rhoda Broughton (1883)
  32. Bel-ami by Guy Maupassant (1885)
  33. La Regenta by Leopoldo Atlas (1885)
  34. Thyrza by George Gissing (1887)
  35. Eline Vere by Louis Couperus (1889)
  36. The Real Charlotte by Somerville & Ross(1889)
  37. Esther Waters by George Moore (1894)
  38. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1896)
  39. The Beth Book by Sarah Grand (1897)
  40. Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim (1898)
  41. Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley (1899)
  42. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)
  43. Fidelity by Susan Glaspell (1915)
  44. Cullum by E Arnot Robinson (1920)
  45. Kristin Lavransdattir by Sigrid Undset (1922)
  46. Anderby Wold by Winifred Holtby (1923)
  47. The Home-maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1924)
  48. The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy (1924)
  49. The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham (1925)
  50. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928)
  51. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sea by Patrick Hamilton (1935)
  52. The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann (1936)
  53. Mariana by Monica Dickens (1940)
  54. Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden (1947)
  55. One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes (1947)
  56. The Far Cry by Emma Smith (1949)
  57. The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay (1950)
  58. A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Tayor (1951)
  59. Fenny by Lettice Cooper (1953)
  60. The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West (1957)

* * * * * * *

I ‘m working out the details of  a brand new project too.

There is no list – this time the project builds the list.

It’s called The Remember This Book List and I want it to be a home for the lesser-known older books that I love and that I don’t want to be forgotten.

I think I know how it will work, but I want to make sure before I explain.

* * * * * * *

Suggestions would be very welcome. And please do tell me about your own plans, and how you organise your reading life.

Weather, Work and Words …..

This was our promenade a century or so ago:

The Rain It Raineth by Norman Garstin

The Rain It Raineth by Norman Garstin

* * * * * * *

These days it’s considerably wetter and windier, and we’ve been warned not to expect things to get better, save the odd calm day between storms, until March. It’s calm tonight but the next storm is due this time tomorrow…..

But let’s not talk about the weather, because we’ve been luckier than many.

Though a certain small dog is displeased that the ground is so waterlogged that it’s impossible to bounce tennis balls for her …..

The Classics Club Spin has been very kind to me this time around – I have been spun ‘Black Narcissus’ by Rumer Godden. I love the film, I have been meaning to read the book for ages, and I think it gives me legitimate grounds for replacing my tatty old copy with a lovely new Virago edition.

But I have been somewhat distracted by work. I still love my job, but I have been dealing with ridiculously tight year end deadlines, the retirement of an experienced colleague, picking up some of his duties, and saying goodbye to old owners who have sold us and hello to new owners. I hope that things will settle down in a few weeks.

As a result there hasn’t been too much reading. I did finish Samantha Ellis’s ‘How to be a Heroine’ and I loved it, so I’m going to wait until my head is a little less cluttered. And now I’m re-reading ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ by Penelope Farmer.

But I’ve been listening more than reading, to ‘The Thirteenth Tale’ by Diane Setterfield, read by Jenny Agutter. I  liked BBC dramatization, and I think it would be fair to say that it was as good as it could be given that it was squeezed into an hour and a half. But it made me want to go back to the book and remember all of the bits that were left out, and I saw a mention of the audiobook somewhere, I checked the library catalogue and there it was …..

It’s lovely seeing all of the signs, enjoying all of the details, and though I have noticed a few weaknesses this time around, the strengths outweigh them. The dramatization did lose the wonderful bookishness of the book.

I’ve not been a great lover of audiobooks in the past, but life has changed over the last few years and now I’m appreciating being able to read while I knit or while I do things around the house.

This month’s knitting project has been using up half a dozen balls of green wool in two similar shades. I’ve just finished a hat and I’m two-thirds of the way through a scarf. I put it down to knit the hat, so now I can carry on with the scarf until there’s no more yarn.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’m wondering about Audible, because the library is heavy on Dickens and Austen but rather light on many of the other classics I’d like to hear read. I’ve read some very positive comments about Timothy West’s reading of Trollope …..

I’ve been wondering for a couple of days of my time for doing this was coming to an end. On balance, I don’t think it is, but I do need to step away from the computer for a while and catch up with myself.

So things may be quiet for a few days but I’m still here.

There are far too many books – old and new – that I so want to read and write about.


A Human Blogs: Diary of a Stormy Night

Well, it’s the morning after the night before and we’re all still here in one piece, the house is still in one piece too, but it’s been one of the wildest nights on the prom in living memory.

This morning we have a run of the mill stormy day, but this is our story of yesterday.

The morning was fine, but we knew it was the calm before the storm.

(This was taken from across the bay some time before high tide - our house is hidden by the wave.)

(This was taken from across the bay some time before high tide – our house is hidden by the wave.)


3.30pm – Looking out of my office wondow, began to notice the wind through the trees increasing, and I knew that would just be the start.

4.15pm – One of my collegues had the radio on in the workshop, and he told me the the prmenade was closing at six – a full two hours before high tide – and that there were a couple of trees down in the road between here and town. I worked out the possibilities for getting home via the back roads.

5.00pm – I set out and the roads were clear but the road around the harbour was already closed – I wouldn’t have used it any way in such a wind – and I joined the queue to get home around the back of town. Progress was slow but steady. When we weren’t moving the wind shook the car, which was unnerving.

5.30pm – I arrived in the car park, but the wind on the short walk home was the strongest I had ever been out in. I borrowed a trick from Briar – deep breath, head down, and forward – but I was genuinely worried that I would lose my footing. I didn’t, but I was more scared than I’ve been in a storm before.

6.00pm – We watched the news headlines – which didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know. We could hear the wind, we could hear the rain, waves were coming right up, and the water level in the garden was slowly rising. But there was nothing more we could do, and so we settled down to eat .

6.45pm – We were all lined up on the sofa, waiting for the local weather forecast. And then the lights went out. Looking out of the window we could see that our terrace and the next were in darkness, but there was light further along the road. We lit candles, and we were very thankful to have a gas aga. Briar assumed that it was bedtime, and curled up to sleep on a cushion.

7.00pm – We heard a drip, and we realised that water was coming in through the frame of the downstairs bay window. After a short period of panic I deployed the preserving pan and the lid of Briar’s toy box to catch the drips. And then we realised we had a similar problem in the porch, We lined the floor with old sheets and towels, but at that point we were really worried, because we were still a way from high tide.

7.15pm – I checked the upstairs bay window, and that was fine, so I came downstairs and watched the water pouring off the gutters.

7.30pm – We realised that the storm was easing. Just a little, but at that stage a little was enough. It was still wild, but the gutters weren’t overflowing and the dripping had stopped.

8.00pm – I-Spy by candlelight.

8.30pm – The tide was dropping and though it was still wild we were relieved that we had passed what might have been crisis point.

8.45pm – I realised that without my modem I had no broadband, and I also realised that I should have brought a Kindle with a light.But we had a round of naming songs with questions for titles, songs with instructions for titles, songs about boats ….

9.30pm – The lights came on. And then they went off again.

10.15pm – We decided to settle down for the night, because we knew we could be woken early before the next high tide in the morning.

10.30pm – The light came back, and it stayed back. Hooray for Western Power!

And then we slept …..

I’m at work now, I’m hoping for some light to read by tonight, and then we’ll get the house straight and get ready for the next round of storms that we’ve been promised.

Tomorrow …

….. will be my mother’s 80th birthday.

The birthday cardigan has been knitted and wrapped.

2013-11-27_18-32-31_240This year we took Heidi Kirrmaier’s lovely pattern Rocky Road and we tweaked it just a little. Instead of three patterns repeated in bands we made every band different, and my mum picked the patterns she liked from a stitch directory. She loved that, it gave her a real involvement, and it sparked some lovely conversations when she was sitting in the lounge.

And she picked the yarn, RYC Cotton jeans in a lovely marled shade of blue. It’s the nicest cotton I have ever knit with and though the pattern doesn’t pop as it might, I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. It means that it’s not a ‘look at me’ cardigan, but knitters will spot the details ….

(One day I’ll get a decent camera and I won’t be rushing around at last minute to get a picture, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

An announcement has appeared in our local paper, with a photograph of my mum and Briar that she particularly likes. I’ve hung a pinboard in her room and put up some nice family photographs, and every time I see her in her room she points to that one and tells me what a good picture it is. So that one and her wedding picture stay, and I change the others from time to time.

untitledFlowers have been ordered, because she has always loved them, and because I notice that she is always very aware of the things around her, and because I know she will still appreciate that ‘specialness’ of having flowers delivered.

And I have taken the day off so we can visit in the morning, because I know that’s the time of day when she’s at her brightest.

I think that’s the nicest birthday I can make for her.

I miss the days when we had birthdays at home. She loved an old fashioned high tea and a special cake, and I can still picture her sitting at the aga room table grinning from ear to ear.

And visiting a nursing home – however good the nursing home is – is just a visit, it’s not the same as being a family at home.

I miss the days when she would remember. Moving to a nursing home was the right thing, she needed the support, and in a strange way she’s more herself now she’s been freed from day to day concerns. Even though the dementia often leaves her confused, even though she’ll forgets so quickly.

I’m luckier than some daughters though, because she remembers me, she’s always pleased to see me, and she trusts me to remember things for her.

And I can still make happy moments, and I that think they stick, that the warmth lingers even if the memories that created don’t.


A Dog Blogs: One New Home, Two Anniversaries, and a Lot of Books …


Hello. It’s me – Briar!

Can you see me in the long grass? I like sitting in long grass, especially when it’s hot.

Today I am here to address the world, on behalf of my family.

First I must say thank you, to so many people who have sent kind and thoughful comments and messages after our last post. It helped us a lot, and Mother would have been very touched too if she understood about computer boxes and all the lovely people we meet through them.

We have done a lot of rushing around, going to meetings and assessments and visiting homes. I didn’t go to all of them, but Jane took me when she could because I have made lots of friends in mother’s nursing home and I wanted to be there for them.

The move is not going to be a good thing for anybody, but things seem to be working out as well as they could have:

  • The lady on the mobility scooter did get the very last place, and she will still be able to go on her scooter to see her husband. We were there when she heard and there were lots of happy tears.
  • The very frail lady will be moving to a specialist home not too far away. She has a nice big family, and we know that they will do their very best for her.
  • The lady with lots of memories is moving to a home on the coast that we know is very nice. She is coming to terms with things, and she was very pleased to hear that a nice friend of mother’s lives there too.

I will miss them, and all of the others, and the staff.

But mother is in her new home now. She moved yesterday. The staff from her old home took her, and the staff at her new home are going to a lot of trouble to help her settle in. Jane saw that it was a cosy, friendly home when she went to see it, and it should suit Mother very well, but moving is a very big thing.

Jane realised that she had to step back, to give mother the best chance of settling into her new home and building relationships with the other residents and with the staff looking after her. But she made sure that everyone know that they could ring her, and that she could come out to see Mother if they thought that would be helpful.

We rang last night and they said she had settled in nicely during the day, but she was a bit confused when it was evening and she was going to bed there. It is worrying, but we have to trust in the home. They are expert in looking after people, wheras we are just expert in knowing Mother.

It was Mother’s 53rd wedding anniversary yesterday. We still celebrate it, because her wedding was a happy day, and because she married the right person and they were very happy. It’s just sad that he has been gone a long time. So we usually do things quietly, with a candle and a glass of wine and looking at old photograph. Mother has many sad days, because her parents, her brothers, her husband and her son are all gone. So we try to make as many happy days as we can for her.

But this year we missed it for the first time. She has lost track of times and dates, so Jane thought it best to let it go.

It was our half anniversary too. Me and Jane and my Uncle Buggy. We met on 6th February 2006, and it was all thanks to me.

I was a very small puppy, and all my innoculations hadn’t kicked in so I wasn’t allowed to go out and walk on the ground. But Jane carried me to lots of places so that I could see what the world was like, and get used to people and traffic and noise and things.

We found Uncle Buggy in the Morrab Gardens. He stopped to admire me, because I was a very cute puppy and he didn’t know what sort I was. He didn’t know what a border terrier was back then, but I have taught him all about us since.

Jane had to go to work in the day, but we had an anniversary jaunt to the woods in the evening.

And now we are trying to get back into a normal routine after all the upset with nursing homes and carpenters and plumbers. It had been quite a few weeks.

Mother will have her weekend visit and I will have to look for some new dog walks near her new home.

And Jane will be back to tell you about books soon. She has done a lot of readin in between times, and when it is too hot to walk far in the evenings we go to the garden and sit in the shade. I watch the world go by, and she reads.

She has to tell you about two green Virago books, a book by the sister of a Virago author, a book by an out of print author who kept coming up as a recommendation, and a couple of new novels.

And she’s still reading more books! It’s ‘All Virago All August’ over on LibraryThing. We can’t quite do that, but we are going to do ‘Very Virago All August’. Lots of Viragos and a few other things too.

And I will be back soon too.

I have plans for another round of my game …

I didn’t mean to disappear, but it’s been quite a week, and now I have a story to tell …..

I only meant to be away for a couple of days. I planned to focus on some complicated work things for a couple of days and then catch up with the bookish side of life at the weekend.

And I was on track, until Saturday, when an unexpected piece of news knocked me sideways.

I was visiting my mother in her nursing home on Saturday morning, as usual. One of the staff said you, “You don’t know what happened yesterday, do you?” I didn’t know and so she took me downstairs to see the owner.

I was told that the nursing home would be closing on 7th August.

There had been no warning, there had been no attempt to invite me to the meeting that happened the day before, and there was less than half of the 28 days minimum notice required by law.

One of the owners told me that she and her partner had been having a terrible time, that social services were impossible to deal with, that income hadn’t kept with costs, that the costs of agency nurses needed to provide cover was ridiculous, that their health had been affected …

And maybe all of that was true, but it wasn’t what my mother’s daughter needed to hear, and it wasn’t what a nursing home owner with one ounce of compassion should have been saying at that particular moment.

My mother is physically and mentally frail, she didn’t fully understand the consequences of what was happening, how much would have to be sorted out so quickly, and so I kept calm and tried to chat with her as I usually would.

This week I’ve had to take time off work to deal with social services, to call and visit possible new homes, and to spend time with my mother. It’s lucky that I have an understanding employer.

Social Services identified three possible homes that would suit my mother’s needs and I picked the one that I think will suit her best. A small home, with sea views, not too far from home. I’m going to see it tomorrow and then I shall go and see my mother and tell her about it. She’d like to go herself but it isn’t really practical.

The staff at my mother’s nursing home and social services have such a huge job on their hands, keeping things going, assessing people’s need, finding them the right places.

We have been lucky, but it’s been a painful and emotional week.

I’m not using names, because I want to protect people’s privacy, but there are so many stories.

A lady who comes in daily, on a mobility scooter to visit her husband. I shall miss seeing them sitting together, quietly and companionably, with the understanding that comes with years of marriage. She was so worried that her husband would be sent somewhere she couldn’t reach, but yeasterday she heard that they had the last place in the home she had hoped for…

A lady who is in her nineties, who has become very, very frail in recent weeks, and her daughter still doesn’t know where she will be going …

A lady who first came to the home to visit her husband, who later moved in herself, who doesn’t want to leave the home that holds so many memories. But she knows that she has to, and there is no place for her in her home town …

There has been such a wonderful atmosphere in my mothers home: it has been a loving, caring, supportive family home, and it really is heartbreaking that it won’t be there next week.

I’ll miss visiting and spending time in the lounge, and so will Briar who has made many friends.

It’s hard to put my feelings into words, so I’m going to quote a county councillor who said exactly the right thing.

“The closure of this home with just two weeks’ warning is disgraceful. Even the legal minimum of four weeks’ notice would be traumatic enough. The residents there are very frail and elderly. This is putting them under too much strain. The company involved should have taken its responsibility to these people far more seriously.”

My mother is taking things quite well, but she doesn’t fully understand what is going on and that she probably won’t see many of the friends she has made again. I do her worrying for her, and I fear that it will hit her when she wakes up in a strange bed, or when something is bothering her and she looks for a familiar face.

Last year, in the spring, my mother was up and about the house as usual one day and immobile in her bed the next. When she went to her nursing home she was poorly and unhappy, but the care and attention of the staff, and later on the companionship of others who live there, drew her out of herself, and she became the mother I knew again.

She’s much frailler, physically and mentally, and though she misses the promenade she has been quite happy in her new home. I wouldn’t have wanted her to move and, unless she could have come home, nor would she.

And so I owe a huge debt of thanks to the staff who have looked after her, and who are still looking after her now. Thay had no warning, they aren’t sure they are going to be paid, their employer is handling the situation appallingly, and they all deserve much, much better.

I know, of course I do, that there are bigger questions to be asked about funding for nursing homes, and for how we look after an aging population. But for now I have to look after my mother.

But I also I know that, even, if this closure was inevitable it was badly handled.

And I know that there are unanswered questions.

Here’s one of them. Why, when staff and residents were told on Friday, when the letter and minutes I received (finally) on Tuesday confirmed that, why has the media been told that the news was broken on Wednesday?

I have more questions to ask, and I have letters to write, but this isn’t the time or the place.

But that is why I’ve not been here.

Bookish business will resume as soon as my head is back in the right place.

A Little Spring Cleaning

2013 has been busy, busy, busy!

Working five days a week after working four for a good few years. Sorting out a mess left by the previous accountant and keeping up with tight deadlines set by head office in Belgium.

I didn’t want to let anything go, but one or two things have slipped.

Things are a little steadier now than they were, and I’ve reached a point where I can take a week off, so it’s time to take stock.

Reading is important to me, so is writing about books, and I want to go on visiting other bookish places, but I need to tidy up, simplify, and get organised.


I’ve updated my theme.

A few pages that I didn’t really need and rarely looked at have gone.

My reading history pages are now bang up to date.

I’ve simplified my sidebar, and there’s a little more work to be done there. My ‘Who Am I?’ page needs a bit of work too.

One day I’ll overhaul my categories and tags too.

Oh, and I’ve promised Briar that she can have a page of her own, with a few photographs and an index to her posts.

I’m reading as much as I ever did, but knitting rather less at the moment.

So I have quite a few books to write about next week, in between spring cleaning the house, giving Briar some nice jaunts, a day trip to Truro to look at some different bookshops …..

Ten Authors Whose Books I Seek

I’ve spotted a few lists of ‘must buy’ authors today, inspired by a meme at  The
Broke and the Bookish
. Now I could come up with a few, of course I could, but the thing is, I know new books and mainstream reissues will go on being there, maybe not for ever but for long enough that I can pick them up when I’m ready.

My true ‘must buy’ books are out of print and hard to find titles by authors I have come to love, and books I know I must seize as soon as I see, because if I don’t the chance may never come again.

It seemed like the moment to pull out ten authors whose books I seek:

The Ten

Oriel Malet: I spotted a book called Marraine by Oriel Malet in the library and I recognised her name from the Persephone list. That book was a lovely memoir of her godmother, the actress Yvonne Arnaud. Once I read it I had to order Margery Fleming from Persephone, and it was even lovelier; a perfectly executed fictional biography of a bookish child. Her other books are out of print and difficult to find, but I found one and I was thrilled when my Virago Secret Santa sent me another, all the way across the Atlantic.

Margery Sharp: I read much praise for The Eye of Love in the Virago Modern Classics group on LibraryThing and so I picked up a copy. I loved it too – romance with a hint of satire and a hint of subversion. I was so disappointed that her other books were – and still are – out of print. But I’m slowly picking them up, used copies and library books, and I’m hoping for more.

Leo Walmsley: Looking back, it’s strange to think that when I picked up Love in the Sun in the library it wasn’t with the intention of reading the book. I remembered a local family called Walmsley and I was simply looking to see if there was a connection. But once I had the book in my hand I fell in love with the cover and with a warm introduction by Daphne Du Maurier. And I fell in love with the book, thinly veiled autobiography written with such honesty and understanding. The library fiction reserve provided copies of the three that follow chronologically from this one. The Walmsley Society has recently bought these books back in to print, and others too, but I was thrilled when I stumbled across lovely old editions of Phantom Lobster and The Sound of the Sea.

Angela Du Maurier: Talking of Daphne Du Maurier, did you know that her sister was a successful author too? I didn’t until I found two novels and one volume of autobiography that Truran Books have in print. It was the anecdote that gave the autobiography its title that made me love Angela – she was stopped by a woman she didn’t know who was convinced that she knew her. As she spoke Angela realised she had been mistaken for Daphne, and when she explained the woman said loudly to her companion, “It’s only the sister!” and stormed off. Angela treated the incident as a great joke, and though it wonderful that her sister was held in such regard. And she wrote of her family and her life with such love and enthusiasm that I had to look out for her other books. They’re out of print and its hard to find out much about them, but I liked the one I found in the library fiction reserve – The Frailty of Nature – and I’d love to find more.

Edith Olivier: I had no idea who Edith Olivier was when I picked up my copy of The Love-Child, but it was a green Virago Modern Classic and I have great faith in those. It is a wonderful tale of an imaginary friend, and I’m afraid I really can’t find the words to do it justice. The library gave me a two wonderful works of non fiction, and there are some diaries I plan to borrow one day, but I would love to find another novel. Sadly though, they seem as rare of hen’s teeth.

Elizabeth Goudge: My mother mentioned four authors she though I’d like when I first moved up to the adult library: Agatha Christie, Daphne Du Maurier, Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Goudge. I only picked up me first Elizabeth Goudge  – The Scent of Water – last year, and when I did I realised that she had been right about all four authors. It was simple story but it was so very well told, with both emotional and spiritual understanding. Her books all seem to be out of print, but I have tracked down copies of the Damerosehay novels that I have heard so much good about, and I found one or two others in a charity shop a while back.

Elizabeth Jenkins: I found The Tortoise and the Hare thanks to Virago. I found Harriet thanks to Persephone. I found A Silent Joy and her autobiography, The View from Downshire Hill in the library. I found used copies of Doctor Gully and The Phoenix’ Nest on my travels. I’ve been lucky I know, but I also know that Darlene and Anbolyn both found copies of Brightness and I so want to find one too. And, of course, there are others.

Sylvia Townsend Warner: I first met Sylvia Townsend Warner in a Virago anthology years ago. I forget which anthology and which story, but she stuck in my mind and a picked up Virago’s collection of her short stories. I loved it, and I still think there are few authors who hold a candle to her when it comes to short stories. One fortunate day I found six of her original collections of short stories and a couple of biographies in a second-hand bookshop. I’m looking out for the others, and for her letter and diaries too.

G B Stern: A couple of years ago I spotted a book called  The Ten Days of Christmas in a second-hand bookshop. I picked it up, because I recognised the name G B Stern as belonging to a Virago author and because I wanted to know why there were ten days of Christmas rather than the more traditional twelve. It looked lovely, and so I bought it. It was lovely, and when I picked up Monogram, a sort of memoir, I really warmed to the author. Since then I’ve picked up The Matriarch and A Deputy Was King in Virago editions and Debonair as an orange numbered Penguin, and I’d love to find more.

Francis Brett Young: Last year I spotted a book called White Ladies by Francis Brett Young in the very same second-hand bookshop. I knew the author’s name, because one of his books was in a list of titles readers had suggested to Persephone that Nicola Beauman included in a Persephone newsletter. It looked wonderful, but I couldn’t justify the price – it was a signed first edition. But when I arrived home I checked LibraryThing and I found that Ali and Liz both came from the same part of the country as Francis Brett Young and they loved his books. I found White Ladies in the library’s fiction reserve, and fell in love with rich prose, wonderful characters, and good old-fashioned storytelling. I’ve ordered a couple more books from the library, I’ve picked up a trio of old out of print titles, and I’m hoping to find more.

And that’s ten!

So now tell me, whose books are you hoping to find?