All the books

Testament of Youth
In honour of my grandparents’ generation

I have this dream occasionally. I dream I am at home in my flat; I know it is my flat, although the layout is totally different. In the dream I find a room I have never seen before and it is full of some other person’s belongings. I know it is fairly simple to interpret, however that isn’t the point because the dream is not what this post is about. This post is about all the books that aren’t in my flat.

I have a fair number of favourite books and I know in my heart that these are books I would never have disposed of. The Great Gatsby; Tennyson’s Poems; Byron’s Poems; Testament of Youth; The City And The Stars; On The Beach; that hardback copy of The Magus with the deep pink sleeve. The list is long. So why is it when I want to read these books I find I do not have them in my flat? Where have they gone?

Well, clearly, I did dispose of them, presumably in some strange Attack Of The Body Snatchers scenario when my consciousness had been taken over by some loathesome book-hating aliens. Or, if that seems far-fetched, then perhaps when I moved into my flat and could only bring a limited number of things, or some time since when I have been “rationalising my life”. Or that time – you know the one: we’ve all had it – when we’ve convinced ourselves we can just buy e-books and save the space on our shelves for something more decorative.

Over recent weeks I have repeatedly had the experience of being absolutely sure that I have a copy of a certain book and then finding I don’t. I am becoming increasingly convinced that my flat does in fact have a secret room, just like in my dream; this room is a vast library and all the books I love are in there, arranged in splendid order on floor to ceiling wooden shelves. If only I could find the door to it.

My most recent experience was on Friday night when I walked home from viewing my lovely home city’s public fireworks display and saw a copy of Vera Brittain’s “Testament of Youth” in my local second-hand bookshop. Having just finished “The Great Gatsby”, I knew it was the ideal time to re-read this favourite so I got home and searched my shelves and delved through the three boxes of stored books under my bed, all to no avail. It was fortunate that I knew exactly where I could get hold of a copy of this and I ambled down the road on Saturday morning and picked it up.

Do you find yourself confounded by the things you have disposed of, apparently voluntarily, and then realise that you are less than yourself without them? What kind of possessions do you readily give up and then dismally regret?


 

2 comments

  1. On more than one occasion I have put things into the charity shop only to be overcome with remorse within a week and bought them back!

    My major book situation was with the books from my childhood, you know the ones, Monica Dickens Punchbowl and Romney Marsh series, that were all Armada books, bought for 2/6 each, the half crown we got when we saw our grandparents. Didn’t keep one, and have spent 30 of my 60 years searching them out and buying them. I’ve got all but 1, all cost more than 2/6 and the one remaining is over £75 and I can’t bring myself to spend that – but I know one day I will!!!

  2. Console yourself with the knowledge that even if you had kept the original Armada books, they were not really high enough quality paper to withstand the test of time and you would probably have wanted to replace them anyway. Even though I know your childhood was a mere couple of years ago!

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