Somehow, reading, blogging, and life in general, seems to have got out of routine in recent months while I’ve been backwards and forwards to see my mother. I did manage to get the Internet up and running last time I was there, but the connection in her part of Herefordshire is dire. And in any case, when I am there I would much rather sit and chat to her, and get her to tell me about her childhood, or discuss books or something. What would be the point of going to see my lovely mum, then ignoring her, and spending all my time on the computer? But I can’t back into the swing of things when I’m back home either!
Anyway, I returned from a visit earlier this month with a box of old books she no longer needs – volumes of poetry, cookery, history and needlework dating back to the 1930s and earlier, as well as some fabulous 19th century books about flowers, with the most incredible illustrations. Some of them belonged to her mother, and I can remember many of them from my childhood, so obviously, I want to keep them all, but finding shelf space was a problem, because we seem to have reached overload, and there is no more room.
|More unwanted books...|
So I forced myself to have a cull, and I’ve weeded out two carrier bags of novels I know I will never read again. I hate getting rid of books, even those I don’t like, but sometimes it has to be done, and I’ve freed up space for the new arrivals, which is good. It’s so difficult clearing things out, but a couple of duplicates have gone on the ‘reject’ stack – do I really need two different Penguin editions of ‘The Great Gatsby’, I ask myself, and the answer, of course, is no, I do not.
And out went some titles that I enjoyed reading, but don’t feel I would want to read again. Geraldine Brooks ‘Year of Wonders’ was a moving account of what happens when the plague of 1666 reaches a small village, and to prevent the deadly disease from spreading, people isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Based on the true story of Eyam, in Derbshire, it shows how fear and superstition dictate the villagers’ actions, as the death toll mounts, hidden secrets come to light, and the world they know falls apart. The book follows the tale of Anna Frith, a maid, who emerges from the ordeal with new-found knowledge that enables her to find her own way in life. It’s beautifully written, and well researched, but so harrowing in places that I don’t think I could re-read it, despite the upbeat ending.
‘Quentins’, by Maeve Binchy, was another book I enjoyed, but wouldn’t necessarily want to read again. I can always immerse myself in Binchy’s work – she’s a warm, compassionate writer, who spins a good ‘feel-good’ yarn, and creates sympathetic characters, but her first novel, ‘Light a Penny Candle’, is the only one I have read, and read, and read over the years.
| I'm quite sad to part with this because even though |
I don't like it, I love the cover, which shows a detail from'
Springtime in Eskdale', by J McIntosh Patrick.
Then there were the books I hated, or which disappointed (I’ve reviewed some of them in past posts). Rose Macaulay’s ‘The Towers of Trebizond’ and Winifred Holtby’s ‘South Riding’ are two of my favourite books, so I had high hopes of ‘Told by an Idiot’ and ‘Anderby Wold’, but neither lived up to expectations, and both are destined for the charity shop, despite the fact that they are Virago Modern Classics, with lovely paintings on their fronts. And I think it must have been the VMC cover that seduced me into buying ‘This Real Night’, by Rebecca West. I can think of no other reason for purchasing it, because it’s a follow-up to ‘The Fountain Overflows’, which I didn’t like, and I don’t like this one either.
I’m finally jettisoning ‘The Mandelbaum Gate’ by Muriel Spark which languished on shelf for years and years, until I managed to finish it during Muriel Spark Reading Week (and I only did that because it was the only unread novel, and I felt Simon and Harriet should have a full set!).
I have happy memories of reading my way through Susan Howatch back in the ’seventies (does anyone else remember ‘Cashelmara’ and ‘Penmarric’?) but I’m wary of revisiting them because ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ was terrible. And I couldn’t find anything nice to say about ‘The Irish RM’, by E Somerville & Martin Ross, which had me glued to the TV screen when it was televised in the 1980s.
|Am I the only person who didn't finish|
Jasper Fforde's 'The Eyre Affair'?
Finally, out go various volumes recommended by friends, which I bought, tried to read, and failed miserably. So the time has come to get rid of them. I got ‘The Bourne Identity’, by Robert Ludlum, because a friend was reading it with her book group, but I never made it beyond the first couple of chapters. I hated everything about it – the style, the story, the subject matter, the characters. I know that’s a sweeping statement, based on little more than a glimpse of the book, but it not my thing at all, so why keep it?
And I’ve tried, and tried, and tried to read Jasper Fforde’s ‘The Eyre Affair’, and cannot get along with it at all, though it seems to be very highly acclaimed by everyone else. And the same could be said of ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’, by Kim Edwards, which other people seem to really rate, but I just kept reading the same few pages over and over again, so I gave up and shoved it back on a shelf. Only now it’s with the other unwanted books and is in the boot of the car awaiting delivery to a charity shop where, I hope, it will meet with the approval of some other reader.
Does anyone else keep books they don’t like, or hang to novels they couldn’t finish because they feel that one day they might change their mind and enjoy that particular title? And do you ever cull books – and if so, how do you decide what should go and what should stay?
|And more unwanted books....|