One of the consequences of living in France is that I suffer from acute book browsing deprivation. There are a couple of bookshops with English language sections in Bordeaux but I don’t go there that often, besides I don’t know what the buyer in one of the shops reads but it definitely isn’t to my taste. There is a charming little librarie in Cadillac which sells tea along with toys and books and has a tiny selection of surprisingly varied and good English books, I’ll go in and yearn but as they’re 12 euros each they’re a treat for special occasions only. Otherwise I largely have to rely on book sites on the internet. They’re wonderful, I rely on them, but you have to know what you’re looking for, you don’t get to browse, to pick up books at random, to see something that you’d never have thought of…
Unsurprisingly the bi-annual Phoenix book sale – about 15,000 second-hand books for a euro each – has the same effect on me as truffles do on a pig. To be honest I don’t need to buy any more books, there are enough in the to-read bookcase to last for a year and that’s not counting what’s crammed on other book shelves. But try telling a pig in a truffle wood that it’s had its ration for the autumn… Anyway all the proceeds go to helping abandoned animals so you could say that by adding to the piles of unread literature in the house I was just doing my bit for charity.
I got there a bit late so the initial rush was over which meant more space just to look and see what might catch my fancy. Rather a lot as it happens –
Not all of them are for me, my youngest daughter has just discovered Mary Stewart and I don’t think she has The Ivy Tree. I read about The Magicians by Lev Grossman on a blog and thought it sounded her cup of tea so that was lucky find. So was Ernest Shackleton’s account of his journey to the South Pole which is the sort of book I’d never think of looking for on the net. Child 44 and Even Steven are for my husband, he also seized Tim Pears’ Disputed Land with an ‘Is this for me?’ No actually, it’s for me, but I’ll allow him to borrow it. He is really pleased with Ernest Shackleton’s South, his account of his journey to the South Pole though.
I’d vaguely registered that if I ever saw Perfume from Provence by Lady Fortescue I’d buy it but there’s no way I can claim that I need the prettily illustrated Dear Cassandra, Jane Austen’s letters to her sister – but I’ve got it. I met Rosin McAuley last year, she’s absolutely charming, I’d read two of her books and was delighted to come across Singing Bird. I have to confess that I’d never heard of R K Narayan, but it looks delightful and there were a couple of Scandi crimes by new authors, a Paula Gosling I’m sure I haven’t read and the third volume of M M Kaye’s autobiography in a pristine hardback, Pure by Andrew Miller and Fire and Woodsmoke by Claude Michelet which describes itself as ‘a powerful saga of one family in the heart of rural France.’ Irresistable!
I’m always riveted by what other people buy. There was one woman with an armful of misery lit, all with pictures of miserable children and one word titles like ‘Beaten’, ‘Abused’ or ‘Forsaken’, another whom I heard saying to her friend, ‘I’m done, I’ve been round everything and I’ve chosen myself a book’. She came to a book sale with a choice of 15,000 with the intention of chosing one book?
Unnatural I call it.