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Monday, January 28, 2013


Thirteen years ago we moved to Singapore. Like most of our possessions our books were packed away and put into storage. When we returned we found our bookshelf space had become more restricted, so several boxes of paperbacks were consigned to the loft where they have remained.

It was only because I was looking for one particular book (True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey) that I knew was in a box in the loft, that I pulled them all down this afternoon. Of course the book I sought was in the bottom of the last box and by the time I had unpacked all three boxes I knew I didn't have the heart to return them to the loft so here they are stacked willy nilly on to my recently re-ordered book shelves.

As I picked each one up, a thousand memories came flooding back...

  • The complete set of Thomas Hardy that I read in a binge during my second year exams at university.
  • The Mists of Avalon, read on my honeymoon
  • The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr read on a particularly lovely beachside holiday with my children and their cousin.
  •  The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, read by torchlight on a trek in Nepal.
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, studied at school in Year 12
  • My grandmother's much battered original Penguin Books edition of The Edwardians by Vita Sackville West (1937)
  • A Passage to India, E.M. Forster, another Year 12 book
  • John Irving's Hotel New Hampshire and A Prayer for Owen Meany which everybody was reading at the time (early 80s).
  • My grandmother's 1937 edition
  • Elspeth Huxley's The Mottled Lizard, continuing her story of life in colonial Kenya
Of course there are my husband's early Tom Clancys, Chris Ryans and a large number of Leon Uris.

I love my Kindle and now buy nearly all my "ephemeral" books as ebooks, but as I turned the dusty pages of these old friends, books I have held on to through my lifetime, it made me realise how many memories are tied up in the yellowing, brittle pages of these old books. Just seeing them back on the shelf, albeit in a haphazard order, makes me smile. Like dear ones, they are home where they belong.

What books are your keepers?