Monday, 5 October 2009

London Books...

Some would say that I don't absolutely, definitely, incontrovertibly *need* any more books, especially after my recent haul in Edinburgh, but going through two of the cheapest bookshops in London left me with quite a few, then a trip to Charing Cross Road revealed a couple of gems which it would have been foolish to leave behind... I'm going to start with them, in fact.

Like a lot of us, I loved Henrietta's War by Joyce Dennys, recently republished in the much-beloved Bloomsbury Group series. When in Henry Pordes Books, on Charing Cross Road, I spotted the name 'Joyce Dennys'... only true book-lovers will recognise that leap in your stomach you get, when you spot a book you never expected to find. And there were two of 'em... Repeated Doses (a sequel to a book I don't have, Mrs. Dose the Doctor's Wife) and the sublimely titled Economy Must Be Our Watchword. They were both *quite* pricey, but - in an unprecedented act of technological capability - I crept into a corner of the bookshop and used my mobile 'phone to check whether or not Amazon and Abebooks had cheaper copies. They didn't - in fact Economy Must Be Our Watchword doesn't seem even to be available anywhere - and these beautiful 1930s books, complete with Dennys' quirky illustrations, were quickly mine.

Less exciting, but still great, were my other finds:

In the Springtime of the Year - Susan Hill
A Bit of Singing and Dancing - Susan Hill
- I will write about Howards End is on the Landing soon, promise, but it's already sent me away to find more of her work. The first of these is one I really want to read.

Saraband - Eliot Bliss
Cousin Rosamund - Rebecca West
Beyond the Glass - Antonia White
- Three Virago Modern Classics which I couldn't leave behind. Never heard of the Eliot Bliss or her/his book, but it charts the emotional life of a girl in the 1930s, so the blurb says. The other two are sequels to books I haven't read, so might be on the back burner for a while... but were found in the wonderful Book & Comic Exchange in Notting Hill Gate, which has a large three-room basement of books for 50p each.

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- a friend recommended this to me, but now several others have told me not to bother... what do you think?

The Lottery and other stories - Shirley Jackson
- this beautiful new edition, already secondhand! You'll have realised by now that I think Jackson is great - looking forward to delving into these. I have read 'The Lottery' online, and it is beyond chilling... you can do the same, here.

The House in Paris - Elizabeth Bowen
- I struggled with The Last September a while ago, and took great encouragement from your similar tales of woe. But Susan Hill says this is her best, and at 40p for a rather nice paperback, I thought I could give Lizzie another shot...

Family and Friends - Anita Brookner
- Susan Hill has a lot to answer for. HEioTL has sent me off in Anita B's direction...

And I also came away with three lovely gifts, celebrating our fifth birthday:

Hostages to Fortune - Elizabeth Cambridge
- my second favourite Persephone book, after Richmal Crompton's, but somehow I didn't own a copy... thank you Nichola!

Virginia Woolf: An Illustrated Anthology
- everything Woolf is good in my book - thanks Barbara!

The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac - Eugene Field
- a late-19th Century book with a rather apt title - many thanks Sherry!

As always, any comments and thoughts on my new arrivals? Thanks everyone!


  1. You are a book buying fiend! And I haven't bought any in 8 weeks!

    In the Springtime of the year is probs in my top 15! ever.


  2. You can't pass up cheap books, that's almost (almost!) a sin! :) Especially when we're talking Viragos. I'd love to get a collection of Shirley Jackson's short stories now that I've read a couple of her novels.

  3. Quite the finds! I can't believe you discovered the new edition of Shirley Jackson already secondhand; that is astonishing.

  4. My goodness! However did you carry them all home? YOur arms must have been aching. May I beg you not to read Cousin Rosamund until you have read the first two books in this wonderful trilogy? (That's The Fountain Overflows and This Real Night). These are truly some of the most wonderful books I have ever read, but really must be read in the right order (especially as Cousin R was unfinished...).

  5. How wonderful, finding the two Joyce Dennys!
    As for Shadow of the Wind, well, no offence to anyone who has loved it, but I'd be firmly in the "don't bother" camp. However, each to his own.

  6. Henry Pordes chucked me out the other day just as I was getting to a crucial bit of browsing territory, the hardbacks, which was disappointing. Not because I was naughty, just because they were closing, by the way. So I like to think that I may have found those books before you, if I had been allowed. Not.Jealous.At.All.

    Great horde though. And I take no offence from Cornflower's comment, even though I am in the 'The Shadow of the Wind is amazing' camp. I loved it and stayed up all night to read it. It must have been years ago because I was still living with my parents. A brilliant suspenseful read in my opinion!

  7. "Repeated Doses (a sequel to a book I don't have, Mrs. Dose the Doctor's Wife)" is this any relation to a book that we have: Allan Ahlberg's "Miss Dose the doctor's daughter"?? I have a lovely picture of you with the two Susan Hill books. I will sent it to you. Barbara

  8. What made you choose Henry Pordes above all other booksellers on Charing Cross Road? Barbara

  9. I am very jealous of the impressive horde you collected :) May I ask which were the two cheap bookstores you went to in London? I feel that a trip may soon be in order ...

  10. What a wonderful haul. In the Springtime of the Year is one of my favorites, have read it several times. Very jealous of the Joyce Dennis pair. Where will you start?

  11. Oh you cheeky so and so (ha) you didnt pop in the amazing 5 for £2 bookshop hahaha mind you apparently they are getting lots of 'professionals' in selling them on which is sad as its a chrity shop.

    I must, must visit that bookshop in Noting Hill.

  12. I had no idea there was a 50p bargain basement in the Notting Hill shop. I have been there on several I blind?? I think a return visit is needed especially if there is a stash of Virago's to be looked at.
    In the Springtime of the Year was the first Susan Hill I read. It is a book which has always remained with me in it's intensity.

  13. I'm sure I have a copy of The Fountain Overflows... somewhere. You're welcome to borrow it if I can find it.

  14. Mum - I have it too, somewhere! It's all a matter of time...

    Simon - I only bought 5 books there! The rest came from elsewhere. I am very grateful to your tip-off...

    Kentishmaid - how did you miss it! I must confess, the entrance to the basement isn't very welcoming - it looks like you're going into an unlit store cupboard. But what bounty awaits... allbeit in a muddled way.

    Claire - I know! I couldn't believe they had that edition already. Can't wait to read it.

    Danielle - A sin it would have been indeed :-)

    Harriet - thanks for the advice. I've had mixed dealings with R West (loved The R of the Soldier, but not Harriet Hume)

    Karen - I'm so excited about these Dennys! Economy Must Be Our Watchword is absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much for introducing me to the author.

    Rachel - you did make me laugh! Thrown out... tsk. They were in the pricey, shiny-hardback section...

    Barbara - I thought of that Mrs. Dose too! I don't think they're one and the same... And I went into two or three shops on CCR, but I find only one or two of them welcoming or bountiful. A lot quite scary-looking and expensive.

    Estelle - Notting Hill Gate is the Book & Comic Exchange one. You'll have to ask Simon at Savidge Reads for the other, as I needed his directions scribbled on a paperbag...

    Carole - already read the first Dennys now, but I think In The Springtime of the Year might have to be next...

    Luce - top 15! Wow. Definitely will read it soon. AND it's nice and short.

  15. The House in Paris is much more readable than The Last September. I quite enjoyed House in Paris. And I love Brookner, so in my book you can't do wrong with her.

  16. Not feeling quite so bad about my book buying habit now...! Really looking forward to hearing more about several of these. K x

  17. Trolling bookshops is one of my favourite things to do and you're right about that feeling you get when you spot a great find. You did really well, Simon!

  18. I love that you're using technology to price shop!

  19. Love the Bowen, and The Lottery scared me silly when I was a little girl. Wonderful stash you found!!

  20. Did you read Bowen's Death of the Heart? One of my top 10 of all time. Ellen

  21. We like a lot of the same books, and I LOVED "Shadow of the Wind" -- though I could not get through the author's newest book to save my life.

    My favorite book of all time is "The Fountain Overflows", and yes, you must read those books in order!!!

  22. No offense, but anybody who says "don't bother" with shadow of the wind is either a dunce, a snob or knows nothing and understands nothing about good writing, literature and the pleasure of a great read. I would say, and millions of other readers around the world concur, that is one of the best novels I've ever read. To deny yourself the pleasure of experiencing it because "somebody told me not to bother..." How sad.


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