I’m in Australia at the moment, visiting relatives. Just now, I’m in Melbourne with cousins who know some great secondhand bookshops. Without trying very hard I’ve bought three or four books, including Australian editions of Anne of the Island and Dimsie Intervenes. My cousin gave me a copy of Ethel Talbot’s Seven Little Australians, which I’ve never read. But my real find came this morning when I bought an Australian edition of Merry Marches On by Clare Mallory. I know I have a Girls Gone By edition in much better condition but I’ll treasure this first Australian edition. Clare Mallory has been a recent discovery for me (thank you, Girls Gone By) and I’m so pleased to have one of her books published in her part of the world.
I’ve just finished (in the last hour) reading Lady of Letters by Josephine Elder. It was excellent. Strictly speaking, it has no place in this blog as it’s an adult novel. However, Josephine Elder is probably best known for her children’s books, published mostly in the twenties and thirties and still being read and collected today. One of them, Evelyn Finds Herself, was recently republished by Girls Gone By.
Lady of Letters, first published in 1949, has been re-issued by Greyladies, an imprint of The Old Children’s Bookshelf in Edinburgh. Firms re-issuing books seem to be springing up all over the place these days and this one is the latest to come to my attention. Greyladies are bringing back into print adult novels written by authors best known for their children’s books. Their other current title is by Noel Streatfeild.
As an enthusiastic collector and reader of books from a bygone era, I’ve revelled in this wave of publishing – even if my bank balance has suffered! I’m doing my small bit to encourage it by including in Stirling Council Libraries’ forthcoming book festival an event entitled Once Upon a Time which will feature representatives from three publishers: Fidra, Girls Gone By and Jane Nissen Books. Have a look at the website for all the details. www.stirling.gov.uk/offthepage
But back to Lady of Letters. I admit I was sceptical about it. I had a dreadful feeling that it would just be an adult version of a school story. But it really isn’t. I was completely drawn into the story of Hilary Moore and found myself empathising with some of it on a completely grown-up level! And I was astonished by some of the emotions and situations it dwelt on, not because of what they were but because of the book’s original date of publication. How surprising it is in context I’m not really sure, though, as I haven’t read all that much adult fiction of the period. And I don’t think the context matters if you’re just looking for a good read. Go and find yourself a copy.