Has it really been almost a whole year since my last lost in the stacks post? My how time flies, doesn't it. I know fall is still weeks away, but there is something about August and the approaching school year that makes me really think of libraries and cool weather and piles of books to read (okay, so for me those piles are around all year), so it seems natural that it's time once again to see what forgotten hidden gems I can find in the library stacks. I'm still hoping to share a few more readers' libraries, but I'll intersperse those with the books I discover in my upcoming browsing forays.
This week's choice was an easy one. I was so intrigued by the last Persephone short story that I read, that I had to request another book by the same author. Last weekend I read Margaret Bonham's "The English Lesson". When I discovered that she had written a mystery I thought I would try my luck with interlibrary loan and hoped to find a copy. And as luck would have it, the book speedily made its way to me from Texas and here it is in hand.
I'm always a little curious about the authors I read, and here she is. It's quite a personal biography that her publisher offers. She was born in London but preferred country life (Shropshire, Devon and then later Oxfordshire). She began writing in 1944 and mostly published short stories (more than 80 of them by the time this book came out).
"Her interests are varied and include Wales and the Welsh, pre-1930 cars and Georgian architecture; she likes cats, Bach, Beethoven and Britten, Fowler's Modern English Usage, and the Times crossword puzzle; she dislikes long hikes, church bells, the Romantic Revival, ballet and opera."
I told you it was very personal. A little hodgepodge of likes and dislikes.
The House Across the River was published in 1950. Like the author blurb that was printed on the dust jacket, the library also cut out and pasted into the first few pages part of the story description. Unfortunately it ends mid-sentence, but this is what I gleaned from it about the story . . . The setting is London either during or just after the war. Nigel Cassell has left his wife. As he makes his way through the rubble of a badly bombed district on the way to a hotel, he sees the foot of a woman. Like the character in a scary movie who hears a noise in the basement and goes to investigate (me, shaking head, knowing trouble is coming), he goes to a hotel bar rather than to the police. There he meets an "enigmatic doctor". "An encounter that is to torment him for weeks." Rather than tell the man about the body, he talks about himself and later becomes obsessed with finding and talking to him again.
The description cuts off here:
"In his pursuit of the doctor, at first alone and later with his unconventional cousin Olivia, Nigel begins to . . . "
Maybe whoever cataloged and processed the book did this on purpose. Anyone looking at the book and reading the description would wonder what happened. How can they leave the reader hanging like that? I guess there is nothing for it but to begin reading, don't you think?
"Cassell came out of the garage with his suitcase, and started looking for a hotel. He knew himself entirely alone, and this was what he had chosen, but it was not a good feeling; it gave him the sensation of being hollow, holding back from panic. It made him move deliberately, as if he watched himself from without, a critic in the stalls; he put down his case on the pavement and dropped the car keys in his pocket, and drew on his gloves. In daylight he could find his way about the city, but now he did not know where he was."
I think I'll keep reading. A good first choice. I wonder what else I'll find. Don't worry, I'll share whatever it is with you next week!