Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sidetracked on My Way to the Butcher

Have you ever started out somewhere and ended up somewhere else, accidentally on purpose as they say?

The last time I was at the Reuse Centre it was to pick up a lonely copy of Brightness by Elizabeth Jenkins.  It really is a deplorable wasteland of garage sale cast-offs with seventies soft rock playing in the background but one man's junk is another man's treasure.

There are stacks and stacks of contemporary fiction but in another area is the tiniest hallway, little more than shoulder to shoulder.  Two books stood out and despite leaving them behind on my last visit they've been haunting me so I decided to end it and bring them home.  I really enjoyed my last Dickens read of The Winds of Heaven recently reissued by Persephone so it was worth taking a chance and this copy of Flowers on the Grass is extra special as it's a first edition.

 "Embracing all levels of society, this is the trouble-laden saga of Daniel Brett, psychologically displaced after the war, unwilling to face any responsibility, and bringing wreck and ravage in his train. With the death of his wife, who was gentling him into home life, he finds refuse in a boarding house where his drunkenness hurts a maid, another lodging where the landlady wakes up to the fact that he is not reliable, on to a tutorship which does not help his epileptic pupil, a job as a teacher where he is almost the cause of, but turns out to be the savior, of a devoted young girl student in the school. It is the hospital, and a neighboring patient who brings him back to a small sense of obligation that makes him bestow undreamed of happiness on a young couple. Stop-watch episodes, this offers a panorama of post-war England and many of its problems...readable if erratic." (Kirkus Reviews)

 My American by Stella Gibbons is about to be reissued by Vintage.  Despite not being able to find a synopsis anywhere the opening paragraph was inviting enough for me.
"It was autumn, Kenwood House, the eighteenth-century mansion on the edge of Hampstead Heath, had been recently opened to the public by King George the Fifth and its beauties were still sufficiently unfamiliar to attract crowds of Londoners, as well as foreign visitors, to stare at them and admire the collection of pictures inside the building."
During my last trip to London in 2009, I was one of those foreigners visiting Kenwood House.  I had walked from the Hampstead tube stop in new shoes and was never so glad to see a bench...I digress.  Since there were no reviews to be found on either of these novels I was wondering if anyone has read either of them and can tell me if they enjoyed them or not.


  1. You lucky thing!The Stella Gibbons sounds fabulous. I found her The Matchmaker in a bookshop for $1 a few months ago and haven't read it yet - I hope it will be an exciting discovery. I am yet to try Monica Dickens but I have heard such good things! Her books are ten a penny second hand in England so I shall dabble when I am back on my native shore!

  2. I have to find a secondhand bookshop that can sidetrack me this way...There's a wholesaler nearby that has rooms and rooms of remainders, but good as that is, it's somehow not the same.

    I read The New House years and years ago (it was a Virago before it was a Persephone...that makes me happy. It's either the world's best pedigree or a sentence that could be straight from either version...'Oh,yes. She was a Virago, but then she married one of the Derbyshire Persephones...')

  3. You've rescued them--and now you'll give them a second life and can tell us what they're about! I sort of like this kind of adventure--especially if you have read and enjoyed an authors work before!

  4. What fabulous finds - great condition - and a first edition! They both look interesting and I've heard of neither title before. Looking forward to you enlightening us about them when you get round to reading them.
    Audrey: I laughed out loud at your Virago-Persephone comment :-)

  5. I got sidetracked on the way to buy shoes for my children, we went to the Central library downtown and found the Book Cellar, which is like a permanent home for Friends of the Library. I got a 1959 edition of a book by Pearl S. Buck called Imperial Woman, and then I also found a 1930 book by Arnold Bennett called Imperial Palace (and I just realized they both have the word Imperial in the title -- coincidence? I think not?) At any rate, they were $1 each so how could I pass them up?

    And on the way home we stopped at Borders because I had a 50% off coupon plus my 10% member discount. I bought a biography of Charles Dickens. I have no shame when it comes to book purchases.

  6. Oh that opening paragraph would have tempted me too. As would the lovely lavender and blue covers of both books! I've been keen to try more Monica Dickens so will be interested to hear what you think.

    K x

  7. Not a foreigner, Darlene .., you're one of us by adoption!

  8. bookssnob, One good thing about my next trip over is that most of my luggage will be taken up by things for The Heiress. This means lots of room on the way home for ten a penny books!

    Audrey, Oh you are too funny! You've conjured up all sorts of images with that quip.

    Danielle, I rarely hang out in new bookshops these days, it's all about digging for treasure in the second-hand shops. The dust is awfully hard on my contact lenses though!

    Cristina, Absolutely! And I should really be spending more time reading and less time scrounging bookshops!

    Karen, The Book Cellar sounds like nirvana and what great prices...these two cost me a whopping $7!

    Kristina, Reading time has been eaten up lately with other duties. Last night I took my book up to bed early and it was like WWIII outside with fireworks for Victoria Day...sheesh!

    mary, Oh you are just the best! Do you think that will carry any weight with the customs people at Heathrow this September?

  9. What beautiful finds! The colours are wonderful too.