I know I have on occasion mentioned that I belong to a postal reading group. Back in January 2011 fourteen of us each chose a book for the others in the group to read. A list was compiled and each of our books was mailed out to the next person on the list after our names. Then every other month the book we had received was mailed on, until just last month when each book visited each person on the list they were finally sent home to their owners. And now more than two years later my copy of Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough's Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, after crisscrossing countries and oceans, and (hopefully) having been read by each person in the group arrived back in my mailbox.
Perhaps a little worse with wear, but I am hoping much enjoyed by everyone.
But then the copy I sent out was pretty battered to begin with. This edition was printed in 1958 (originally published in 1942), so was already a little on the fragile side. I bought a used copy as it is only available now in hardcover (at least it appears to still be in print!), so it would be a nice, light-weight paperback to keep mailing costs as low as possible. I was also seduced by the vintage (though I guess at the time it was designed it wouldn't have been vintage, eh?) cover. A mere 35 cents, too. What a bargain, though maybe in 1958 35 cents was a lot of money?
Plus it has these wonderful illustrations. It's a pity that more books don't have illustrations like this. The only requirement we had for choosing our books was to keep it around or less than 200 pages. It was a tough decision as the group I belong to is very well read, so it was an agonizing choice.
I wanted a book I'd read and loved and one I thought everyone would find equally as entertaining. The group was initially formed to read Persephone Books's list of twentieth century women writers, but they branched out and now all sorts of books are read and discussed. Our main bookish commonality lies in the sorts of domestic fiction that you see being published (re-discovered) by Persephone Books. We each also included a little notebook for comments--hence postal reading group. I've only had a chance to skim the comments in my notebook and my choice seems to have gone over fairly well. It is indeed a charming book (which I unfortunately never wrote about properly) and I'm happy to have shared it with the others in my group--especially those who had never come across it previously. Now I really need to read it again (and would love to read more of both women's books).
In case you've not heard of it is a travel book of sorts about two young American women traveling to Europe in the 1920s and their adventures (and sometimes misadventures). It was popular when first published and went through 20 printings and sold more than two million copies in the 1940s. It was made into a film in 1944, which I would dearly love to see. Our Hearts Were Young and Gay was a great find for me--I came across it in the now defunct (and sadly missed) Common Reader catalog.
In case you are curious the books I read in this postal round (it was my second by the way) include (I wrote about some of the books and have included the links):
Common or Garden Crime by Sheila Pim
Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner
In the Springtime of the Year by Susan Hill
Peking Picnic by Ann Bridge
The Palace by Lisa St Aubin de Teran
I thoroughly enjoy taking part in this postal reading group and am looking forward to our next round, which will hopefully begin sometime later this summer. I've been thinking about which book I will send out into the world and have a little list compiled already. Part of the fun is that we keep our books a secret so the packages are always a surprise. So, alas, I cannot tell you what I have in mind for the next round. I may (or may not) have written about the books . . . But don't worry, I always share my reading experiences (especially the really good ones) here eventually!