The weather continues to tease and tantalise – brief hints at sunshine, warmth through glass, a few spring bulbs. Sadly this is too often quickly followed by a Siberian blast and a need to huddle by the heater, nose in book, in wilful denial of the heating bill which will blight all chance of a summer holiday. However, at least now it is lighter and there is a chance of getting out. Cycling home along the river path is still a distant dream. Are you mad ? In that darkening gloom? It may be Richmond, but if you are not assaulted by the mad, bad and dangerous to know then there is fear of running into a jogger or over a duck. However, one can at least go out without the need to wear 12 layers of passion-killer thermals and that fetching scarf knitted by Gran, one finger constantly twitching over the mobile in case of travel updates from TFL which will blight forever the chance of reaching Clapham.
Posts tagged 'bookshop'
In the run up to Christmas (yes it has started, we have our Christmas cards out and we are only moments away from fake snow on the windows) I thought I might suggest some new releases for those seeking inspiration for the present list. Remember, a book is always welcome… well, it is in my house.
The first, A Book for Cooks, is a blatantly self-indulgent hint to any of my nearest and dearest looking to buy for me. Not history, you may think initially, however bear with me: history is about people and ‘we are what we eat’. (In my case this is clearly several fat capons and an awful lot of butter, I sometimes wonder if my attraction to the past is nothing more than a hankering after a more woman-friendly age when the pins-ups were by Reubens rather Hello magazine…) So first up is an unusual but lovely look at the historical development of food, eating, design and the cookbook. A Book for Cooks is Leslie Geddes-Brown’s list of the 101 best cookbooks of all time. In cookbook terms, all time dates from the early 16th century when recipes began to be written down and published. Prior to that it was an oral tradition where crucial ingredients and cooking times were passed on by a clip round the ear to the nearest scullery boy.
I have just been to hear Anne Sebba talk about her book That Woman on the life of Wallis Simpson. This is one of a series of authors’ talks which we plan to make a more regular feature at The National Archives. Books should, and do, stand by themselves and sometimes seeing the author in the flesh can be a disappointment. Am I alone in thinking that Nigel Slater, possibly the greatest food writer today, worthy heir to Elizabeth David, should never, never be let near a television camera? However, this was a treat.
Slightly spookily Anne’s dress almost exactly mirrored the one Wallis is wearing on the cover of the book but once over this I was captured by her words. Wallis Simpson’s story is extraordinary and Anne elaborated on her view of Wallis’ life: a tragic love story if not the one you’d expect. She read from letters Wallis wrote to her second husband Ernest at the time of the divorce which showed a woman trapped by her own schemes, horribly alone and in love with a man she can no longer have.
In putting the abdication crisis in its historical context Anne showed how horrified the royal family had been by Edward’s actions. The country had just come out of the First World War a time when the country had responded to a call to duty and paid with their lives, now ‘the family’ who have possibly the most engrained sense of duty ever, were looking to one of their own asking what they saw as a small thing and he wouldn’t do it. As you know there is nothing like the opprobrium heaped on someone by their own family if they think they are letting the side down. The mistresses, the weekend parties, the gin, the madness they could deal with all that –almost de rigeur for a king you might say- but one must step up to the plate and do your duty, not throw your toys out the pram if you can’t have ‘the woman you love’. In Anne’s final slide of Wallis’s coffin being carried out followed by members of the Royal Family, the look on the face of the Queen Mother said it all.
August is always a quiet month in bookselling. The heady rush of pre-holiday sales when customers stock up on the latest hysterical/historical bodice-rippers and secret squirrel espionage titles to doze over by the pool is over now. Of course I don’t mean everyone, you are better than that, I know you bought Anthony Beevor’s worthy tome on The Second World War and are currently spilling sangria on pages devoted to the Soviet invasion of northern China.
But go on, admit it, you secretly hanker after a peek at Shades of Grey (in the interest of research naturally) don’t you? I speak as one who spent a month in the Himalayas with a friend whose idea of holiday reading was a history of the Hapsburgs (volume two naturally) so often left ostentatiously by the campfire whilst he read my trashy novels. And of course printed book summer sales are declining anyway as Kindles come into their own at holiday time. You need no longer run out of clean underwear five days up the mountain because you had to carry an extra book in case it rained.
I work in the bookshop at The National Archives. You didn’t know we had a bookshop? Shame on you. It really is an undiscovered gem, well worth a visit in its own right. But of course I would say that. I love it. Tucked in the corner just off reception and opposite the coffee bar, the bookshop is a little treasure trove.