Topping up my library

Some of the smaller libraries in my area are being converted to ‘community libraries’ which means that local people have to fund them. It’s a trend that’s happening all over the UK sadly. It’s meant to be a way of helping the local authorities to meet their budget targets but in effect it means that I, as a local contributor to their funds, end up paying twice. Once through what in the UK we call council tax (a yearly payment to fund local services, the level of which is determined by the size of your home) and then through local fundraising. The library in my village is one of those targeted to be a community library and despite significant opposition from local residents and two court cases, it’s likely to be in place within a month.

It’s going to be a big challenge to get the money needed for even basic things like heating and lighting of the libraries. In the interests of seeing what other community libraries are doing to raise funds, I toddled off to a book sale run by one of them yesterday. All in the interests of market research you understand – I had no intention of buying anything 🙂

Well of course you all know what happens in these events. It was inevitable I came away with something. It was all in a good cause anyway – the new library gets a much needed boost to its coffers and I get to enrich my private library. A win-win…  Here’s what I bought.


I’ve never read anything by George Meredith so this rather pristine copy of The Egoist called to me as a way of enhancing my knowledge of Victorian writers.  Looking at the back cover I see it’s considered “the most dazzlingly intellectual of all his novels” in which he turns the spotlight on the pretentiousness of a powerful social class. Virginia Woolf rated him highly apparently.  Maybe the fact that this copy looks as if its hardly been opened tells me that the previous owner was not of a mind with dear Virginia.

Elizabeth von Arnim is someone whose name has cropped up recently as a result of HeavenAli’s review of her novel Love which triggered many comments recommending another of her works – The Enchanted April. The copy I snaffled is a Virago modern classic, number 222, though sadly not in the green livery of other Viragos I have on my shelf. I guess I have to live with the fact that this new purchase spoils the colour scheme of my bookshelf.

Molly Keane is a newish discovery for me though not for people who are avid Virago readers. This summer I read Devoted Ladies which she wrote under her other pen name of M.J. Farrell and while not wowed by it, I enjoyed it enough to want to try her again. Good Behaviour is the first novel published after a writing break triggered by the death of her husband and was the first time she used her real name. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1981.

What can I say about Michael Cunningham’s The Hours other than I don’t know why its taken me so long to get a copy. The film adaptation starring Meryl Streep is superb but I’m told by those who know such things, that the book itself is even better.

How could I resist anything by Anita Brookner, especially a hardback in such good condition as A Private View. Its focus is George Bland, a 65-year-old bachelor who has just retired from a worthy job in a dull office. Into his rather lacklustre life storms Katy, a young squatter who takes up residence in a flat opposite. She’s abrasive, self-assured and into crystal therapy and other New Agey kinds of things. She awakens some strange sensations in George.

And finally, one I needed to buy to help me reach the finishing line in my Booker Prize project. Vernon God Little by D. C Pierre caused a hoopla when it won the Booker in 2003 because it contains a high proportion of profanities and because the author is a former drug addict. Neither of those are showstoppers for me – if the profanities are an integral part of the story and how it needs to be told I can live with that, its the gratuitous use by authors who think they are being ‘hip’ that irritates me. As for the author’s background, I don’t see how that has a bearing on whether he is a good writer.  Will Vernon Good Little be worth reading? Only time will tell..

Given the low prices I think I was remarkably restrained with this little collection. Have you read any of these or plan to in the future?

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on September 19, 2016, in Sunday Salon, TBR list and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 64 Comments.

  1. I had no idea this was happening to libraries!

  2. I’ve always meant to read The Hours. I saw the movie and thought all three actresses did a flawless job. Your post reminds me I need to pick this one up.

    Talking about libraries, I never knew that libraries were state-funded in other countries. Here I pay a fat membership fee for a very average lending library with no seating and no community activity 🙁 .

  3. My old local library was lovely. Was. I think it’s still there but much changed.

    In better news, you’ve a good book in that Enchanted April!

  4. The current dismantling of libraries is so depressing, isn’t it? Such a backwards step. Anyway, of your finds, I also think ‘The Hours’ is a better book than the film, which is saying a lot as I loved the film too! I enjoyed VGL when I read it. It’s bitingly satirical, but I wonder how well it will have aged, and look forward to reading your thoughts. The Enchanted April is utterly charming – quite as restorative as two weeks spent basking in Italian sunshine!

    • I could do with two weeks in Italy – sunshine, good coffee, super ice-cream, ancient history – what is there not to like about that combination. Oh and I forgot the italian language. Sigh…..yearn – hope – give hints to husband …..

  5. Thanks for explaining what’s been going on with the libraries there! I’ve heard mentions of changes, but wasn’t quite sure about the details. It sounds like many may end up forced to close, which is always a sad thought. Glad you were able to get so many great books for a good cause, though!

    • the last report i saw said that 400 public libraries have closed in the last few years in the UK. Once one local authority does it, they all see the opportunity to save money. Yet at the same time they keep running cars for their mayors and entertaining in the parlour after meetings

  6. Your restraint was admirable! You’ve reminded me that I have to read The Hours too, one of the few films I enjoyed!

  7. Some fantastic finds there. The von Arnim is wonderful I so hope you enjoy it. I loved The Hours though years since I read it and I loved Good Behaviour too. I don’t think I have that Brookner – I do love her writing. Maybe time for me to dig out an unread Brookner. Enjoy your haul.

  8. piningforthewest

    I’ve read almost everything by Elizabeth von Arnim and Molly Keane. I think you’ll love The Enchanted April.
    The same thing is happening here in Fife with 16 small libraries being closed, it’s tragic, especially for small children who won’t be taken to the library by teachers now. Many parents don’t have the time or inclination to take their children to a larger town to visit a library.

    • I heard about Fife – its disgraceful because of the distances people will have to travel – the local politicians assume people have transport and don’t have to rely on buses….big mistake.

  9. Um, why does a library sell off books instead of keeping them as stock? Especially as they look in good condition.

    • I think this particular bundle was donated by readers from their own stock. The libraries do occasionally have sales of their own materials – often they are in good condition because readers don’t take them out often so the library says they get rid of the slow moving stock in order to make room for the new stuff

  10. The Hours was simply wonderful, which is slightly surprising as I didn’t really see what the fuss was about in Mrs Dalloway – other than the style of writing, that is. I’ll have to check the film adaptation as well, because of Meryl Streep is a gem. I’m sorry to hear that the libraries in your area are in such a sorry state at the moment, so hopefully the library sales will keep them breathing for a moment longer. A Private View sounds fascinating, so I’ll have to make a note of it.

  11. Look forward to hear what you think of the Molly Keane as I’m hoping to read it for Ireland Month next year. I liked Vernon God Little a lot. It’s very entertaining.

  12. I love the idea of a book sale but it’s a sad state of affairs indeed. My local library is open for less than 12 hours a week, which I suppose is better than nothing, but I wonder how long that keep going 🙁

    • We’re hoping to keep ours open for 27 hours which is the current practice but I really suspect the initial enthusiasm will wane and we’ll be more in line with your hours

      • It’s a real shame. Our local library now not only has wifi but advertises that there is a PS3 and an X-Box, and even a TV, but there’s nothing like a book group?! It’s missing the point and plain desperate.

        • similar here – they are trying to become more than a lending library and appealing to all tastes with a large tv screen in an area with a couch so all the rabble can go and watch crap tv and the sound goes everywhere i the building

  13. Excellent finds! I’ve read The Hours but am mostly unfamiliar with the other authors you found. I keep meaning to try Brookner’s Hotel du Lac.

    • Hotel du Lac is a lovely introduction to her work. I know some people have found it slow or lacking in plot but that really wasnt Brookner’s focus. she looks more at character and their development

  14. I haven’t read any of these, although I do own Enchanted April and The Hours. Good finds, and a good cause!

  15. I loved The Hours…and Cunningham’s book A Home at the End of the World. I also have the movies for both, naturally. lol.

    Interesting facts about the library funding. I remember way back in the 1970s here a bill passed (Proposition 13) that drastically cut funding to things such as libraries and other local entities, and for a while, the library hours were seriously cut back, too. Those were not the good days.

    Enjoy your new purchases!

  16. Market research, yeah I’m going to have to use that one sometime 😉 Enchanted April is an absolutely delightful novel.

  17. I read Mrs Dalloway just before The Hours after a following a suggestion that reading books that were twinned in some way would be a fun activity. Recognising how Cunningham wove Wolfe into his text made it a very enjoyable read.

  18. I’m aghast at the Community Library scheme – let’s hope the South African authorities don’t cotton on to this idea! Good luck with VGL – I thou9ght it was awful & abandoned it, but await your verdict with interest.

  19. Good Behaviour is wonderful, and I liked the Hours. Sounds like a good haul…Wasn’t crazy about The Enchanted April

    • yours is the first comment I’ve seen that Enchanted April didn’t enchant you….Was it the characterisation or theme or style??

      • It was too sticky sweet for me. I saw the film first and thought it had been made for American audiences (you know, the eccentric British). Eventually got around to the book and it was a bit better but not much.

  20. All for a good cause 🙂 but terrible that libraries are being forced out. Once gone, you’ll never get them back 🙁

    I’ve only just read The Enchanted April – divine!

    • Whats angering me is that in the community where my great grandfather grew up, the coal miners paid out of their own pitiful wages to create a library in a workmen’s institute. they say the value of books as a way of educating people out of poverty. Today’s politicians have no such understanding

  21. The Hours is wonderful – you’ll really enjoy that, I hope. And yes, DBC Pierre has written several others, including a very recently-released book on writing called Release the Bats. It’s had good press, and the title is great!

    • thanks Elle for reinforcing how right I was to buy The Hours! Good to know DBC has continued writing – with books that are so different from the norm you do wonder if the author has anything more to offer or they were a one trick pony

  22. It’s so sad, what’s happening to libraries in the UK.

  23. Lovely finds – and all in a good cause, of course, so no guilt attached at all! 🙂

  24. *chuckle* I don’t think VGL was popular in the US because the book is a fierce satire of American life.
    I loved Good Behaviour when I read it some years ago, again, it’s a satire.
    But oh dear, community libraries, in the nation that spawned the Enlightenment, it is so sad. Does the fund raising mean you also have to pay salaries? That’s a huge impost…

    • We don’t need to pay salaries – we get 50% of a librarian whose salary will be met by the council. But most of the time we have to have volunteers in the library. we currently have a good bunch of enthusiastic helpers – two years down the line I hope the enthusiasm doesn’t wane.

      VGL seems to really divide opinions….

      • So the librarian will do the buying and the cataloguing, and the donkey work by the volunteers. Bless them, I hope they can keep it up, the important thing is to keep the volunteer base growing so that as some drop off new ones can take over. It’s a bit of an art form, keeping volunteers happy!

  25. I really disliked Vernon God Little. The two things you mention aren’t showstoppers for me either – I just really disliked the plot. I did find the profanity distracting in this particular book although in other books it has not bothered me. I will be very curious to see what you think of it when you get around to it

    • I’ve never heard anything further about this author – did he just stop writing?

      • No, he’s written at least two (maybe three) other books but I don’t know how well they did. I don’t typically enjoy dark humor and since I really disliked his first one, I’ve not bothered with his other books. Just not my particular style but I know many how loved the book.

  26. Vernon God Little & The Hours are great choices!

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