Well, here’s a thing. There appears to be some bloke in his trollies plastered across my blog – how did that happen?!
How that happened is simple enough, actually; the lovely Vanessa at Love, Laugh & Read blog is hosting a giveaway to celebrate Canada Day (for the ignorant such as I, they tell me this is the anniversary of the birth of Canada). It’s an international contest and by simply commenting on each blog participating (there’s a list of them on her site) you can win all sorts of goodies including a wide variety of ebooks (not least “ON DARK SHORES; THE LADY“) and paperbacks and a couple of mystery prizes…. Intrigued yet? I know I am!
So, click on Tarquin pic above (about 2 Boddingtons fans will get this joke) and go to Love, Laugh & Read; sign in with the linky gadget at the bottom of the page, and then do your blog tour, commenting as you go for extra entries!!
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Only a short blog today, but as some of you will know from my ramblings on Goodreads, I’ve recently moved house and I was unpacking yet another crate of books today when I came across one of my best secondhand bookshop finds; a boxed set of CS Lewis’ Narnia books, the lovely ones with the Pauline Baynes illustrations.
Just finding them there made me smile, as these particular books are really special to me; and it made me think that though I am a big fan of ebooks (and indeed had been just been thinking that if my entire collection was in virtual form I’d have brought it into the house on a memory stick rather than in 25 crates!) there are some things that an ebook cannot do that a paperback can and does do. For what it’s worth, my take on the whole ebook / p-book debate is that I read ebooks to gatekeep my shelfspace, and buy p-books of the books I was to keep and re-read and admire on my shelves in idle moments and this boxed set is very definitely of that category of books.
In the first place, it’s an author I love whose books transfixed me for hours at a time, as a child (and I still enjoy them today, though you can never quite reclaim the innocence and the novelty of your childhood interpretation); but these books have a claim on me which might be entirely imaginary…. or might not.
Let me explain…
In the area of the country where I grew up, virtually all the kids moved South to find work (and still do) so when I finished Uni and went back home it was a bit of a shock to the system. I’d gone from the mad, glad dash of clubs and musical societies and classes on a campus with fifteen thousand people around my age from all around the world to the slow, gentle, quiet progression of life in the beautiful countryside, with no public transport locally and none of my good friends in this half of the country. Even the kids I’d gone to school with were mostly living down South somewhere, so it felt a bit forlorn in a lot of ways.
I did do a bit of writing, of course, but having just finished 4 years’ worth of essays, reading for pleasure felt like more of a luxury and there was a great little secondhand bookshop just down from where I worked so when I wasn’t buying the mis-shapes from the chocolatier, I was usually lurking in the bookshop. One day I happened across a boxed set of the Narnia books, in beautiful condition. All the paperbacks were there, and there wasn’t a bent spine amongst them; they were slightly faded along the spine but otherwise in beautiful condition, and when I asked the price, the shop-owner said that as I was a regular, I could have the lot for £15, which was about the price of a new hardback.
I wasn’t well-off at the time and this was about a month’s book allowance, but I didn’t hesitate to take him up on this offer and bought them on the spot, dashing back to my temping job with the bag clasped to me as if it was something precious – because it was. I was consumed with glee at finally having not only managed to buy a full matching set of them for myself, but also having managed to ace all my expectations by finding the ones with the Pauline Baynes illustrations that I loved, in the original box, and in such perfect condition! Clearly they’d never even been read, I thought; but I was wrong.
When I got home that night I went straight up to my room, allegedly to change out of my work trousers, but in actual fact to savour the first opening of the books, as if it were some amazing gift that I’d received unexpectedly.
I took them out of the box, marvelling at the jewel-like colours and the absolutely unsullied appearance of the covers; and then I opened ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ carefully. On the inside of the cover was handwriting in a plain, angular script, not easy to decipher. It simply read “To [scribble]” and the date, which was also unreadable. It was good to have a bit of the book’s history in front of me.
The inscription was only written in the first book, but they were obviously a set; a wonderful present for someone. I wondered if they had been unwanted and how they had ended up in the secondhand shop. However, as I leafed through each book in turn it quickly became clear that these books had not been unwanted but had been treasured by someone just as careful with their books as I am – and more.
Each and every one of the beautiful line drawings that grace the pages of that edition had been painstakingly and very thoughtfully coloured in in pencil crayons; not the usual clumsy scribbles that spoil the picture and mar the book, but with real attention to detail and thought for the colours.
I hate writing in books – I’m the first one to argue that it distracts me and breaks the spell of the tale, and even hesitate over writing my name in the front of my books because it will annoy me every time I open the cover. In the normal way of things I don’t approve of colouring in the pictures either unless you’re a much better artist than am I; but these were different. These were the work of some child who genuinely loved those books, and cared enough to keep them in utterly pristine condition otherwise.
The thing is, that sort of book doesn’t end up in a secondhand shop unless the original owner is no longer around; we might fall out of love with the stories but we never fall out of love with the memory of the pleasure they have given us. Of course I may be wrong, but it seems likely that the books were given away as part of a house clearance….
I can’t help but wonder what happened to the child who coloured in those pictures with such care and wonder; but wherever she (or he) is now, I think that they’d be pleased that their books have come to someone else who will love and look after them, and sometimes when I sit alone in the quiet and read them, it is almost as if there is someone else there sharing the story, and loving every turn of the page just as much as I do.
I always stop to look at those beautiful pictures; and it doesn’t break the spell of the story; and I always spare a kind thought for that child, who is reading along with me, just as they used to when the books were new…
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Anyway, that’s my story for today. What about you? Is there a book that you loved as a child? Do you still own it now? Leave a comment and let me know!
And of course, don’t forget to go back and enter on the other sites by leaving your comments there as well…. So who’ll start the ball rolling?