This month I’ve been sorting my books which have accumulated and are now overflowing after two years living in London. Long gone is the principle of one book in, one book out. I have a habit of buying online when I hear or read about a book that piques my interest, because it chimes with my writing, because it’s by an author whose work I admire, or a friend’s novel or poem has been published. I do use the library, particularly for book club reads.
When we moved from York to London we did a tremendous cull and still our bookshelves are crammed full and in some cases double-banked. There’s really no more wall space for bookcases and something had to be done. I started by keeping just one of the novels by authors I’ve enjoyed, such as Joyce Carole Oates, Elif Shafak, Isabel Allende and A.L. Kennedy, to name but a few. I pondered over rereading Somerset Maugham’s, Of Human Bondage, and it’s sitting on the Undecideds pile. Other piles, are Books Borrowed (from friends), Books to read, Novels and poetry to reshelve. I’ve got two shopping trolleys worth of books to take to the homeless charity on Watney Market, and there still isn’t enough space freed up for the books that remain.
Of course, some books have sentimental value, books that were formative, whether or not I read them again. A collection of Jane Austin, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison, Colm Toibin, William Trevor; books that are part of my mental furniture, points of reference for superb writing and ideas. I also have a shelf each for books I’ve read (or am reading) for research on my novels, News from Nowhere, Renegade, and work in progress on Eliza Raine. Do let me know how you decide what to save and what to give away, I’d be fascinated!
Book Club Reading
I belong to a book club at Canary Wharf Idea Store, one of the Tower Hamlets libraries which is a hop down the Elizabeth Line from Whitechapel. For the last few years of the pandemic, the group has met online, but this month we met in person, or at least some of us did. It was a hybrid meeting with three of the group on zoom and half in the room, who had the benefit of sharing cake!
Canary Wharf at night is a sensory experience of gleaming lights, towering office blocks teetering like ninepins, that feels like a megalopolis from an action movie. I expected to see low flying aircraft weaving between the buildings. The library itself is airy and modern, once you’ve navigated your way along windy walkways or through a Waitrose megastore.
This month, we read Rebecca Stott’s In the Days of Rain, A daughter, a father, a cult. It’s both a biography and an autobiography, as Rebecca Stott weaves her way through her upbringing in an Exclusive Plymouth Brethren sect, while writing an homage to her father. Her mission is to fill in the gaps in the story of his life that he could never confront. She graphically describes the privations of women and children, the banning of normal social contact and the limitations of an education based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. Members of the sect were waiting for the ‘rapture’ when they’d be gathered to heaven, while sinners were left to fend for themselves. It’s ‘a powerful exploration of the fault-lines between faith and doubt, duty and love.’ A captivating read which gave us plenty to discuss over our gingerbread cake.
If you’d like to know more about my writing, head to my November Newsletter with tasty details about my Journey in Search of Eliza Raine.