What’s in a Name Challenge: Complete!

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This was a lovely challenge. Lots of time was spent happily browsing for titles to fit the categories.

And now I’ve read my 6 books for the 6 categories.

Here they are:

1. A book with a “profession” in its title

A Bookseller‘s War by Anne and Heywood Hill

2. A book with a “time of day” in its title

The Swan in the Evening by Rosamond Lehmann

3. A book with a “relative” in its title

Brother Jacob by George Eliot

4. A book with a “body part” in its title

Every Eye by Isobel English

5. A book with a “building” in its title

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

6. A book with a “medical condition” in its title

Among The Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Thank you to Annie for hosting!

A Bookseller’s War by Heywood & Anne Hill

A Booksellers War

On 3rd August 1936 Heywood Hill opened a bookshop in Curzon Street. It still bears his name.

In the early years he and his wife Anne ran the shop together.

Anne writes simply and openly of this period in the introduction to this volume, her love for books, the shop and, of course, her husband shining through.

But then in 1939 war broke out. And in 1942 Heywood was called up.

Letters, of course. ensue.

Anne writes vividly of events in the bookshop. The antiquarian book trade seems largely unaffected by the war and the London literati – most often Osbert Sitwell and Frances Partridge – pass through. Anne cannot fill her husband’s shoes as manager, but her colleagues clearly tactfully support her. And of course, like so many other women, she desperately missed, and worried about, her husband.

Meanwhile Heywood struggles with basic training. Like so many of his generation he has been called upon to play a role for which his life has been no preparation. He persists though, and eventually finds his niche in intelligence.

Looking back I see that my paragraph about Anne is significantly longer than my paragraph about Heywood. That mirrors their contributions to this volume book – it is more “A Bookshop’s War” than “A Bookseller’s War”.

Initially this made interesting reading, but soon the gaps were very apparant.

No references to friends and family, beyond the fact that Anne had seen them or heard from them.

No references to home-life, or even to the coming child.

No references to the wider world.

Of course some editing must have been necessary, and of course the privacy of all those involved must be protected. But what is left is so devoid of context, so unrooted in a recognisable life, that it ends up just floating by.

The book ends when Anne steps down from the shop to look after her new daughter.

And I’m afraid that it didn’t offer enough to make it stay with me.

The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street: Letters Between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill 1952-1973

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Nancy Mitford was, for a number of years, a bookseller.

Between 1942 and 1945 she was employed in Heywood Hill’s bookshop at 10 Curzon Street, and effectively ran the business when he was called up for war service.

Her interest in the shop continued when she moved to France after the war and she corresponded with Heywood Hill right up to the month before she died in 1973.

This book travels through that correspondence.

Nancy’s letters talk about books, enquire about the reception of her own work and gossip about her life and social circle, while Heywood passes on stories of the shop and its customers, news of mutual friends and reports of literary life and events in London.

Both are wonderful letter writers and their different styles work well together.

However, John Sumarez-Smith, the editor and present manager of the bookshop, has opted to omit letters that have already been published elsewhere and, in many cases, only uses very short extracts from letters.

As a result the book doesn’t flow as well it could, and I can’t help feeling that, while this slim volume was a lovely read, the story and correspondence could have formed the basis of an even better book.