Thursday, 17 January 2008


I never get as much chance as I would wish to just curl up with a book. During the day it seems an indulgence, like going to bed in the daytime (even though you are ill); at night, it is a challenge to stay awake further than a chapter. I live for books. I cannot imagine a world without them. I HAVE to read. When sufficiently desperate, I will even read bus time tables or the labels on sauce bottles. I am sure this will be familiar to some of you. At the moment, with the thought of downsizing from this rambling old house very much in our thoughts, I am trying to be sensible and do a cull of the books I "can" live without, as I know I can't take them all with me. My husband had his - smaller - collection too. I am hoping he will prune his a little so the sacrifice isn't all mine! Having said this though, this being sensible about downsizing business, has this stopped me buying books? Erm . . . actually, no . . . But I am thinking twice! My hand does hover a little, but I am still to be found crouched down in front of boxes of books at the Car Boot Sale, rifling through their contents as you never know quite what will turn up. It might be a book I have waited half a lifetime for. I have a list in my pocket, of what forum friends are looking out for as well, so really I'm searching as much on their behalf as mine . . . aren't I?

I do collect, however, I must be honest about that. Old horse books (I have collected antiquarian horse books since I started work at 16); literary biographies and critiques: especially Thomas Hardy, the Brontes and Dickens; Victorian social history; books on the countryside; cookery books - anything with the word 'Farmhouse' or 'Country' in the title is difficult to resist. I love all sorts of needlecrafts, so my hand often hovers over embroidery or quilting books. I can corner the market in books on history and archaeology, but there's always the one that "got away" . . .

If I HAD to choose books for a desert island, I would be hard-pressed I must admit. They allow so FEW on Desert Island Discs . . . Hmmm. For the sake or argument, we will allow . . . four. Golly gosh. ONLY 4 books. As I'm the arbitrator I think I shall indulge myself with "complete works of" . . . OK. Here goes:

1. Complete diaries (even the ones his widow burned after his untimely death just a few weeks after their wedding - peritonitis, poor man) of the Rev. Francis Kilvert. We are fortunate enough to live within day out driving distance of Clyro, the village a mile from Hay-on-Wye, on the Welsh side of the Wye, where he was curate for some years. I have read and re-read his diaries, as they are published, and books about him and his writing. If I had those, I could evoke some wonderful memories and imagine, in my mind's eye, the places that he knew so well, some of which are familiar to me.

2. Complete works of Thomas Hardy. In hard back please, and since I can indulge myself, let's make that first editions too. I would read Jude the Obscure first, to get it over with, so I would never need to touch it again. It was the first of his novels that I read, and it took me 6 years to pluck up the courage to read something else of his, but now they are my good companions. I assume that his complete poems would also be thrown in for good measure.

3. Complete works of Somerville and Ross, Irish writers who painted such funny stories of Irish country life, and the chasing of the fox, in those halcyon times before it was considered politically incorrect to do so. Their talent for the creation of characters who ride right off the page because they are so alive would have me crying with laughter.

4. This is very, very difficult. Would I chose one of the children's pony stories that I still have, mostly in Armada paperback editions which are falling apart from being read and reread and now the glue which held them together is as dry as desert dust. Or Elizabeth Sutherland's The Five Euphemias, which I have started reading several times, and then gotten waylaid by something less stuffy, but I still really want to read it. Or the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, which would evoke such wonderful thoughts of the English countryside with its amazing illstrations and sayings. Or Flora Thompson's books, brought to the front of my memory again now that 'LarkRise to Candleford' is being dramatised on tv. Or the complete works of Diana Gabaldon, so that I could fall in love with Jamie all over again, on my desert island . . . Or? I don't know. Like Scarlett O'Hara, I will think about that tomorrow - and let you know! What would you choose?


Mara said...

I love the country diary...and her Nature Notes although it's a shame they were never written up except in draft form. Beautiful illustrations. I also love hardy and his depictions of rural life. :)

MammyT said...

Oh my GOOOOdness. I'd have to have Jamie Fraser. Somerville and Ross. Sounds like I have missed something very special there. I'd take the complete works of C.S. Lewis, including the space trilogy and every transcribed radio broadcast. It's Sooo hard to choose. I have to think some more. About the compulsive reading? I'm sure I know the difference in the ingredients between Louisiana Hot Sauce and Tabasco. Doesn't everyone study those things? I've read every work the Wheaties people ever wrote!
Jennie, this is a lot of fun! Your writing is one of MY favorites!

Leanne said...

Like you, I have thousands of books, and i just cannot answer this question!

Leanne x

Bovey Belle said...

Mara - the Country Diary turns up regularly at Car Boot Sales and Charity shops, but I still have my copy, and have indeed bought one for my daughter.

I'm kinda leaning towards Jamie Fraser myself Nancy - at least I would have a lot of words to read! Although I would love one of the Monica Edwards books from my childhood (probably Spirit of Punchbowl Farm) - it just wouldn't last long enough. I am thinking it would be a very leisurely desert island stay . . .

Leanne - it is SO difficult to choose. I think I'd be inclined to say they could keep Shakespeare (for all his talent) if I could have an extra book!