Reviews

‘A marvellous entry in this excellent series, one of those books that  you have to keep reading but hate to finish. Highly recommended.’ [Stage Fright]

- MYSTERY WOMEN

Found between the pages of a book

Unknown-5There are a lot of books in our house. I have no idea how many, but thousands, certainly. That is what happens when two academics marry and when they read a lot outside their subject. Our books are a kind of biography, marking different points in our lives when we bought them and when we read them. Peter tended not to use book marks, but instead would use whatever was to hand: a train ticket, maybe, a flyer for some event. So sometimes I am ambushed when I open a book and find evidence of when or where Peter read it.

The other day I was gazing absentmindedly at a shelf of books, when I realised I was looking at a copy of Antarctic Adventure by Sir Vivian Fuchs. I was surprised because I was nearing the end of the second draft of my new novel set in Antarctica and I had no idea that I had a source so close to hand. Peter must have forgotten all about it. Inside it was a gift tag: To Peter Wishing You a Happy Christmas from Auntie Maisie and Uncle George.’  Both of them are long dead. The book was published in 1959 and I imagine it would have been given to Peter not long afterwards. I felt a pang at the thought of Peter opening it on that long ago Christmas Day – and all these years later I was opening it and thinking of him. It is strange the way our books survive us.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been ambushed. I picked Empire and Local Worlds, by Mingming Wang off the shelf. It’s a work of Chinese anthropology. In it I found an invitation to a concert in memory of our friend, David Mellor, the designer and silversmith  in London in 2009. Peter must have been reading it on the train in preparation for his own book, Architecture and Ritual.

No doubt there will be more reminders. The stories of our lives in books . . . in both senses of the word.

6 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    June 14, 2017

    I can only imagine what that moment must have been like, Christine. And it is nice to know that you have that resource. I know what you mean, too, about books having memories associated with them. That’s happened to me, too, and it’s always a bit of a ‘memory jolt,’ isn’t it?

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      June 14, 2017

      Yes, Margot, a memory jolt, that’s exactly it, and there’s an apt French expression, ‘un petit pincement au coeur,’ a little squeeze of the heart. I love my books. They are companions and though I do read e-books too, they can never be the same.

      Reply
  2. moira@clothesinbooks
    June 17, 2017

    I love your French expression, and can see that these would be sad moments, but also reinforcements of your memories and your past happiness.

    I deliberately put tickets, postcards etc in whatever paper book I am reading at the time – and love coming across them when I re-read later on. But I have never found someone else’s mementos….

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      June 18, 2017

      Thanks, Moira. Yes, bitter-sweet moments, reminding me of what a full and rewarding life Peter had.

      I agree about the interest of finding things that one had left between the pages of a book. What is also fascinating is finding things in second-hand books. Years ago I bought a copy of Alice Munro short stories in an Amnesty International bookshop in Malvern and someone had left their American Express credit card statement in it!

      Reply
  3. Susan D
    June 20, 2017

    Always intriguing to find bookmarks and inscriptions, and even unknown books on your shelves.

    If you haven’t read Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris, it’s worth tracking down. All the book-related essays are intriguing, but especially, I think, “Marrying Libraries”.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      June 20, 2017

      Thanks, Susan. I have read Ex Libris and loved it. Thank you for reminding me about it.

      Reply

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