Charity Shop Loot

I went out on my lunch break today to Brompton Road, ostensibly to buy a dress for a wedding I am going to on Saturday, but somehow I returned back to my office with no dress and a bag full of books. Such is life.

I managed to find, for £2, a pristine copy of The Tortoise and the Hare, which I have been wanting to read since I read dovegreyreader’s marvellous review (and there is another good review from The Times here). The cover leaves a lot to be desired; I really am quite ambivalent about these chick lit covers Virago seems to be using for its re-released Modern Classics; I understand that they’re trying to reach a larger readership and encourage people who wouldn’t ordinarily pick up a Virago author to try something new, but I do wish they wouldn’t try and make every book they publish look like a light and frothy beach read. If I hadn’t have known the true content of The Tortoise and the Hare, I would have dismissed it straight away just by looking at the cover. This would have been the same of my next find; a completely unread looking copy of Jane and Prudence with a bubble gum bright cover depicting two fashionably dressed ladies that lunch, priced at £3 and which will be my first Barbara Pym. I’m rather excited by this one as the blurb is enticing indeed and Philip Larkin said ‘I’d sooner read a new Barbara Pym than a new Jane Austen’, and if Philip Larkin is a fan, I am sure I will be! I was prepared to leave with just these when a lovely hardback of The Spare Room, which I have heard many great things about, caught my eye – £4 only and it slipped into my arms along with the others. I took my first step on to the staircase that would lead me to the ground floor and the till when another book managed to jump off the shelf and into my already full hands; Black Diamonds, a book I sneaked a peek at over someone’s shoulder on the tube a few months ago and it looked marvellous – all about the fall of an eccentric British dynastic family who made their money from coal in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Then I got back to my office and a colleague gave me a copy of The Journal of Dora Damage, which she is finished with and says I will love (it still surprises me that people are willing to just give away books to other people…maybe I need to get more selfless when it comes to sharing my books). It’s set in Victorian London and is all about a woman called Dora whose family run a bookbinder’s business and when the business gets in trouble she becomes involved in a web of deceit and crime in order to help her family. Sounds wonderful and will probably fit in nicely with the ‘Sensational September’ challenge you’ll read more about below.

So all in all a very good haul for someone not intending to buy any books today, but it now just increases my TBR pile even further, and so the pressure to reduce the pile by reading ever faster. I am going to put this in writing so I actually do it – this month I WILL READ AND FINISH THE CHILDREN’S BOOK. It needs to be read and I need to stop being such a wuss about having to plough through 600 odd pages of the intensity that only A S Byatt can produce and just get on with it. So I shall. I will clear my diary for a few evenings and just sit in and read and I will get it done in no time. There is nothing to be scared of! Nothing at all!

On top of this I have just found Simon at Savidge Reads’ blog and on it he has a Sensational September challenge; a month of reading late Victorian ‘sensation’ novels; the sort that Sarah Waters’ best sellers are based on. This is the perfect excuse to finally get my copies of East Lynne and No Name read, so they will also go on to the TBR pile.

And finally, I got home from work tonight to find two very welcome parcels on the doormat; my win from FleurFisher’s blog draw, Little Boy Lost, which is beautiful and also came with a lovely card depicting Penzance, which was so thoughful. So thank you very much Jane! I also received a book I ordered from Oxfam online the other day, The Peachgrower’s Almanac, which is known as A Proper Education for Girls in the US, and which I read about a while ago and desperately wanted to read, partly because the cover is so beautiful, and also because it sounds like such a fun read!

So clearly I am going to have a busy month, reading wise. I am currently ploughing my way through Daphne Du Maurier’s Hungry Hill and loving every minute of it; it will probably take me until the weekend to finish though, so a review won’t be coming until then.


  1. claire says:

    Lovely loot! Cornflower Books has chosen The Tortoise and the Hare for their online book group this month or last (I forget which). I was tempted, but was hoping there was another cover? Anyway, I'll be waiting for your thoughts on that.

  2. Vintage Reading says:

    Excellent haul! I'm after The Spare Room, too. I've heard it's very good. I like the look of that Persephone, too. Sadly I couldn't get on with Jane and Prudence.

  3. Something's Dishy says:

    What a wonderful bunch of books! The Tortoise and the Hare is one of my favourite Viragos (of course, I still have to read so many). East Lynne is one of my favourite books. It's a real page-turner!

  4. Cornflower says:

    Yes, if you manage to read The Tortoise and the Hare by the 26th. of September, do come along and join in our discussion! (More details here:

  5. Sarah says:

    I have those copies of Jane and Prudence and The Hare and the Tortise and like yourself don't like the covers!Both The Journal of Dora Damage and The Spare Room are very good (and very confronting) reads, so it will beinteresting to hear what you think.I'm trying to persuade myself to invest my time in The Children's Book- I'm sure it will be wonderful, but the intensity is something I need to steel myself for.

  6. Paperback Reader says:

    I discussed in a post on book covers that I particularly like the colourful new covers of Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark books but agree that some of Virago's other new offerings put me off.I hope you enjoy Little Boy Lost. A London Child of the 1870s will be with you hopefully by this time next week (unless there are more strikes).

  7. Darlene says:

    So now you are returning the favour of making me want to buy more books! Hopefully I will find my copy of Little Boy Lost in the mailbox today. The Dewey Divas came to speak at my library a couple of years ago and highly recommended The Journal of Dora Damage. Sadly, the author passed away shortly after the book was published. You had a very successful book gathering expedition, lets hope the dress shopping goes as well!

  8. StuckInABook says:

    Ha, I love the idea of going to buy a dress and coming back with books instead. I actually really like the cover for The Tortoise and The Hare, but mostly because it's the work of Alice Tait, an artist whom I love. My copy is an old, jacketless hardback. I've been meaning to read The Spare Room for ages, borrowing a copy from a friend at book group next week…

  9. Rachel says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments – I'm glad you liked the books. Lots of positive reviews too – I am looking forward to reading them all.Cornflower – I will definitely join in if I have read The Tortoise and the Hare in time!Darlene – enjoy Little Boy Lost! We should coordinate our reading and swap thoughts!Simon and Claire – I think with me and the Virago covers it's not that they are unattractive; I actually really like the artwork, especially on Jane and Prudence, it's just that I much prefer the more classic look of the original greens, and anything other than that on a Virago strikes a discordant note with me. Also, I don't think the covers suit what is inside. But I must move with the times and accept the new covers, I suppose, otherwise I'll be missing out on the joy that lies within them!

  10. JoAnn says:

    Wonderful book haul…but now what will you wear to the wedding?

  11. Rachel says:

    JoAnn – my lovely sister has lent me a dress to wear! Now I have saved money on not buying a dress, it means I can buy more books!

  12. Darlene says:

    Rachel, My 'Across the Pond' friend, Kristina and I will be reading Miss Hargreaves beginning next week. Should you be in the mood to read Little Boy Lost between late September and whenever, let me know. A read-along would be terrific.

  13. Rachel says:

    Darlene, that would be lovely! We have to arrange it, I love reading a book with someone else.

  14. savidgereads says:

    Brilliant post, this has happened to me three times this week. I have een off to go and get some presents for other people and in a week have somehow gained an extra 30 books mysteriously. How does it happen?

  15. Desperate Reader says:

    The Pym is excellent with a nice line in vicars wives, and I love East Lynne, what asatisfying haul of books.

  16. Danielle says:

    What a great haul of books. I just recently started The Tortoise and the Hare (for Cornflower's group) and am enjoying it immensely. To be honest I didn't even realize when I ordered it that it was a Virago (just going on Cornflower's recommendation for the book group). I like the cover, but it doesn't seem like what I'm used to, so I was very surprised when I got it that the inside was the usual Virago information. I, too, prefer the nice tradition green covers. Some of the newer ones are nice, but some do seem a tad bit fluffier than the contents of the books really are. I have Black Diamonds on my pile as well. And I loved the Journal of Dora Damage–such a pity that the author died at such a young age, but she left behind an excellent book!

  17. Rachel says:

    Simon – It is frightening the way books manage to worm their way in to every outing we make, isn't it? I pop to the shops for some milk, oh, and a book, apparently. How did that get in there? Go out to buy lunch, oh, and a book…completely unintentional, but there it is! It's better than buying chocolate, is what I always say…books don't make me fat, they make me more cultured! They benefit my life! I need more!Desperate Reader – Glad you can recommend the Pym!Danielle – I'm glad you agree with me on the covers, I'm clearly not the only stickler for tradition! I know such a shame about Belinda Starling – I'm glad Darlene told me now because I would have been very sad to read and love the book and then realise there were no more coming.

  18. Samantha says:

    Hi Rachel I come your way via Claire at Paperback Reader.This is a wonderful collection of books to find at a charity shop. I wish we had such well stocked charity shops in Australia. I love Barbara Pym and also have The Tortoise and the Hare for the Cornflower bookgroup. And being Australian I am a huge Helen Garner fan and I really enjoyed The Spare Room too. And the exact same edition of Little Boy Lost just dropped through my letter box just the other day … I am very much looking forward to that one.

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