Best laid plans go awry

I’ve been taking advantage of the Autumn sunshine with a mini break in Wiltshire (I refuse to pander to marketing folks who want to brand such trips as staycations).  I persuaded Mr BookerTalk that a visit to Bookbarn International (which claims to be one of the largest used book sellers in the UK) wouldn’t mean too much of a detour on our path to the renowned cathedral city of Salisbury. Actually I had no clue where this bookish heaven was located other than somewhere vaguely south of Bristol. But good old sat nav got us there easily enough and I prepared myself for a good couple of hours of mooching and buying.

What a disappointing experience. I’d sifted through my TBR and found a good armful of non fiction books I no longer wanted and thought I could sell. Their website promises this service but when I asked, the response was that I could donate but they don’t buy.

Further disappointment came once among the shelves. Filming for something or other was in progress so a good quarter of the place was shut off. The crew wasn’t actually using all the space for the film but if you’ve been around production teams you know they like to spread themselves and their equipment just about everywhere. And of course the area they had commandeered included the shelves I wanted. So it was fine if you wanted fiction by authors whose names were in the first half of the alphabet. But of no use for me in my quest for Zola or for any Virago Modern Classics which were also shelved in the restricted area.

The layout of the place wasn’t all that helpful either. The printed sheet detailing which shelf numbers contained which collections didn’t match the chalkboard descriptions on the end of each aisle. So looking for classics I found myself in ‘wine and cookery’. After much huffing and puffing I learned that they have recently reorganised the place but hadn’t got around to changing the blackboards. Not very impressed……

Did I buy? Yes but not anything I was desperate to get. I think I bought on the basis that everything was ridiculously cheap (£1 a book no matter how big and fat) and I’d got that far so I may as well buy something. I ended up with this collection.


Tony Morrison’s Beloved I’ve been meaning to read for some years. Cousin Bette is considered to be Balzac’s last great work with its themes of vice and virtue and the influence of money. Tigers in Red Weather got a lot of visibility when it was published two years ago – not sure if I will read it or just pass straight to my niece. I haven’t read a lot of Rose Tremain’s work so this pristine copy of The Road Home, a story of an immigrant from Eastern Europe, caught my attention. It was selected for World Book Night in 2013.

And finally, a book that I suspect most readers of this blog will not have heard of previously. Off to Philadelphia in the Morning by Jack Jones. Jones, the son of a Welsh coal miner,  was a trade union official and politician as well as a novelist and playwright in the mid 1940s and 1950s. The novel gives a fictional picture of the early career of the composer Joseph Parry (who came from Jones’ home town of Merthyr Tydfil) as they move from the poverty of south Wales to the hardship of industrial America. Parry gained a reputation through his composition of Myfanwy (a song you’ll still hear today) and the hymn tune Aberystwyth, upon which the National anthem of South Africa, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is said to be based.  The book was an instant success – a highly successful TV film followed. I wish I’d bought this a week earlier and then I could have used it for the 1947 reading club run by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. Maybe they’ll let me sneak it in???

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 October 20, 2016, in Bookends, TBR list and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Looking forward to your thoughts on Beloved. What an interesting cover — I’ve never seen that one before.

  2. Too bad Bookbarn was a bit disappointing. You still managed to come away with a few finds so that’s something

  3. I’m sorry to hear that your visit was a disappointment. Hopefully, you’ll like the books you purchased, so that it wasn’t a complete waste of time. I only know Beloved and liked it very much.

  4. How interesting about Jack Jones. I think he also went and fought in The Spanish Civil War if it’s the same one I’m thinking of. I’ve not heard of this book; it sounds fascinating. My sympathies on the bad signage. Recently I was reorganising the fiction section in the second hand bookshop I work in and taking all the historical fiction out of general fiction and … basically creating a rod for my own back etc..etc but there was a brief moment when the signs did not match the books and the poor customers began to show signs of distress!

  5. What a shame that you had a bad experience of Bookbarn! I love it there and have come away with good stacks on my two visits. I think they only sell antiquarian/collectible-type books online, so on my first visit I took them a bag full and they created a seller account for me. I managed to get £21 that way in the course of the following year. I’ll agree that the layout is rather haphazard, and of course it didn’t help that they didn’t tell you about the reorganization. I’ve read the top row of your finds and they’re all very good.

  6. That *is* disappointing, especially with something like Book Barn which is supposed to be so good. And yes – late entries for 1947 are welcome 🙂

  7. That sounds pretty rubbish – I’m glad it wasn’t OUR book barn up here in the Midlands that let you down. I loved The Road Home, by the way, an excellent read.

  8. So sorry the trip was mostly disappointing…it’s good that you got some books you were wanting. Thanks for sharing.

  9. piningforthewest

    I always seem to have disappointments when I set out to go to well known bookish places. I went to Hay on Wye and bought nothing at all. The books are very expensive there but there was nothing I wanted anyway. I would have bought the Balzac too.

    • I wonder if its a case of too much choice sometimes. I get the same problem with shopping for clothes. if i have limited time and no intention to buy i see loads I like. But the day I set out to buy a particular item, I end up with nothing. Hay can be very hit and miss – indeed some of the prices are a bit high

  10. Not a very welcoming visit by the sounds of it! Oh well, at least you found a few bargains.

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