First off: Admittedly, just over half of the books in this photo are actually a result of compulsive library shopping rather than actual book purchases, but the main point is clear—the book sale I wrote about a few weeks ago has quickly eroded what little self control I had mustered since my New Year resolution about not buying so many books for a while—at least until I got caught up a bit with those I already have. Now, it's true enough that I have made that resolution before and it has never been successful, but this time it was actually looking promising—I had purchased almost nothing since December and my TBR shelves were actually shrinking. I was quite proud of my self-control, but the self-control proved to be merely a fluke after the big book sale led me to fall off the wagon in a big way.
In other words, it's all the library's fault.
And, I should hasten to admit, there are several more books winging their way across the Atlantic as I write this, which I'll have to address in a separate post. Oh, the shame of it!
I wrote just a few days ago about my discovery of Elaine Howis's second novel, The Lily Pond, which I fetishized as much for its appearance as for its contents. Naturally, then, when I found dirt cheap copies of two more of her novels, dustjackets included, I could hardly resist.
And because I am obsessive compulsive, I had to request the fourth and final of her novels from interlibrary loan—not to mention her one story collection, which had already been returned to the library by the time I took the picture.
I know Rachel Ferguson is a favorite of many readers for The Brontës Went to Woolworth's and the Persephone reprint Alas Poor Lady, and she's a favorite of mine for her later novels A Footman for the Peacock and Evenfield, which I've written about here. And there's so little information about Ferguson's lesser-known work online that I decided a while back to see just how many of her books I could manage to get hold of.
I didn't expect to be able to read all of her novels, but, amazingly enough, these two—among the rarest of Ferguson's early works—actually put the finishing touches on the project. So, you can be sure you'll hear more about her soon—probably far more than you want to hear!—as I try to get a handle on her entire body of work.
I've always meant to do the same with Ruth Adam, an author I love for her historical survey A Woman's Place (available from Persephone) and her novels I'm Not Complaining (a Virago reprint back in the day) and A House in the Country, which I reviewed here, as well as her interesting one-off mystery, Murder in the Home Guard, which I also reviewed a while back. Fetch Her Away (1954) is one of what ODNB called her "girls in care" novels (along with 1960's Look Who's Talking), and I've long been intrigued by how Adam's wonderfully sharp and observant perspective would come into play in novels explicitly about the social problems she was so interested in personally. We'll see!
I'm beginning to believe that all authors named Winifred should just preemptively be placed on my TBR list, whether I know anything about them or not. Peck, Duke, Darch, Holtby, Watson—good heavens, for a name that has gone entirely out of style in recent decades, that's a rather extraordinary batting average! And Winifred Lear seems like no exception. An anonymous commenter mentioned that Lear's second novel, Shady Cloister (1950), is set realistically in a girls' school and therefore should be added to my Grown-Up School Story List. I'm still working on obtaining a copy of that one, but meanwhile a shockingly cheap copy of her first novel, The Causeway (1948), fell into my lap, complete with dustjacket, which you know I couldn't resist. Plus, a luke-warm review of The Causeway in the Saturday Review made me perversely certain I would love it more than their cranky reviewer had (particularly since it's described as being set just before World War II and in the early days of the Blitz)…
And speaking of books to add to my Grown-Up School Story List, have a look at the back cover of Elaine Howis's All I Want:
A tantalizing blurb for a book that clearly seems to belong on the list, but a search for copies on Abe Books reveals exactly . . . zero possibilities. Hmmmm, a case for the expert interlibrary loan folks at the San Francisco Public Library, perhaps? Has anyone ever heard of this intriguing book?
Phyllis Paul's Twice Lost (1960) was perhaps the most dirt cheap of all the books I acquired in this little spree. Less than $4 including shipping—what?! But it has already proven well worthwhile, and one of the (considerably costlier) books currently crossing the Atlantic is another of Paul's novels. You'll hear more about this one soon.
Romilly Cavan is an intriguing author I've been meaning to check out for a while. She published only six novels, of which Beneath the Visiting Moon (1940) is the last. In early 1941, Kirkus summed it up as follows:
A gay, warm, witty story of a disarming English family on the eve of war. A family story, wholly ingratiating, of the Fontaynes, who live on a run-down ancestral estate in rural England, from the casual mother to nine year old Tom, fourth of the brood. Things start to happen when the mother marries again and annexes two unpleasant step-children.
It was obviously destined to make its way to my shelves after that.
And finally, there's this book, the one on top of the pile, with the peculiarly blackened, illegible spine (it's definitely not from smoke, as my sensitive, allergic nose can't detect the slightest whiff—what else could turn a beige-ish cover coal black, I wonder?). I'm planning to talk more about it, and about how I happened across it, in the near future. But not quite yet…