I do tend to re-read quite a lot. There are books I can go back to again and again, some of them classics, such as MANSFIELD PARK, others my own discoveries, such as Joyce Dennys’s HENRIETTA’S WAR: NEWS FROM THE HOME FRONT 1939-1942 and HENRIETTA SEES IT THROUGH: NEWS FROM THE HOME FRONT 1942-1945. These are collections of articles illustrated with witty pen and ink drawings that were published in the SKETCH. They are a fictionalised version of the writer’s own life as a GP’s wife in Budleigh Salterton during the war. They are both funny and touching, and I read them them every two or three years for pure pleasure.
A book which is acquiring a similar status for me is John Baxter’s A POUND OF PAPER: CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK ADDICT. I first read it about five years ago and I’m now reading it again. It tells the story of a life through books and book collecting and what a life it has been. He grew up in Australia, left school at fifteen and worked for ten years as a clerk for the New South Wales Government Railways, before realising that he was in danger of spending the rest of his life there. He left to pursue his passion for literature and film and there followed a rather rackety life of writing, teaching, broadcasting and book-collecting in Australia, Britain and the States. He got through a couple of marriages, too, before ending up in Paris with a French wife and daughter. There are several fascinating appendices, including one of responses from writers and collectors to the question of what single book they would rescue if their house were on fire. So what would mine be? Not my own books or my husband’s, they are easily replaced, though THE QUEST FOR THE GRAIL is quite expensive now. After considerable thought I’ve decided I would probably chose ANNE OF AVONLEA by L. M. Montgomery. It’s a battered and foxed reprint of 1940, worth nothing in collector’s terms, but it belonged to my mother and I loved it myself as a child. We had ANNE OF GREEN GABLES too, but I don’t know what happened to it.
What would your choice be? I love to know.