The Story of Finding the Book that I had Thought Would Always be Just Out of Reach

Do you have a book like that?

A book that you really want but that you think you will probably never be able to hold in your hand and read?

I did.

I discovered the author ten years or so ago, when one of her books was reissued as a Virago Modern Classics. I loved it, and I went looking for the two sequels. The library had one and I found an inexpensive paperback copy of the other.

I loved those two sequels too.

I couldn’t understand why only one book was in print.

The library had more of the author’s books in reserve stock, so I began to order them in, and it wasn’t very long at all before I had found an author to cherish.

I never could pick a single favourite of anything, but if I did have to pick a favourite author she would be on the shortlist.

The library didn’t have all of her books and, anyway, I wanted copies to keep.

I steadily tracked down most of her books, but I found that some of them were very difficult to come by.

The author was very successful, a few of her books were made into films, and so those were printed in large numbers, most of her subsequent books were too, and some of her earlier work was reissued.

Her first two books were never reissued.

I was lucky enough to find one of them a year or two ago, but that first book remained elusive. Copies did appear online occasionally, but they were so highly priced that I really couldn’t justify the cost.

Some of the authors books were reissued it digital form a while back. It was lovely to see them reappear, but all of the books that the publisher chose were already in my collection.

I continued to look for a copy of the book that I thought would always be just out of reach, but my hopes weren’t high.

Then a copy appeared, in the hands of a reputable American bookseller, at a much more reasonable price. It was far from cheap – cost what I might have spent on several brand new books – but I told myself that a chance like this might never come my way again.

I placed my order and I waited patiently for my book to fly across the Atlantic.

You may – if you have known me for any length of time – have a good idea of the name of the author and the name of the book.

The author is Margery Sharp, and the title of her very first novel was ‘Rhododendron Pie.’

The book begins like this

‘The Laventies’ garden was unusual in Sussex, being planted French-fashion with green-barked limes, eight rows of eight trees at a distance of six feet. The shady grass between them was dappled in due season with crocus, daffodil and wild hyacinth, but they had no successors. All the other flowers were in the lower garden, where Ann’s tenth birthday party was drawing to a rapturous close.

The young Gayfords were even then being led out of the great gate in the west wall, a gate almost as wide as the garden itself and surviving from the days before the stables had gone to make way for rhododendrons. It was of iron, man-wrought, with a beautiful design of fruit and foliage, and Mr Laventie used it as his back door.

With the departure of the guests a change came over the garden: the Laventie family settled back into itself with a breath of content. They had been exquisitely, lavishly hospitable, but when Dick pulled to the gate and leant back against it it was as though he barred our every everything that could mar the beauty of the hour.

“Now!” said Elizabeth.’

I may not read much more than that for a while, because I still can’t quite believe I have the book, because I want to savour the anticipation for a while, and because life isn’t leaving me too much reading time at the moment.

But I think, when things settle down a little, it is definitely time I read another one of Margery Sharp’s books …

30 thoughts on “The Story of Finding the Book that I had Thought Would Always be Just Out of Reach

  1. I do know this feeling! And I finally found a copy of Four Gardens at a price I could justify to myself. But I haven’t even looked for the first two books yet.

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  2. Oh, glory be! Enjoy. 🙂 I completely understand; I had the same experience. To actually find a copy and have it in my hands for good was and remains wonderful. I am mulling over adding the deposition of my early-edition Margery Sharps to my will, lol, so they will go on to someone else who will treasure them as I do. Maybe I should start a list of applicants? – though hoping it shan’t be an issue for some time yet. 😉

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  3. How wonderful. You must feel as I did when I discovered a copy of Winifred Holtby’s letters which then had been out of print for some years. I hope it is everything you have been expecting.

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  4. I know the excitement of this. I had two books I searched for when I was actively collecting the old Penguin books. One I found and the other probably never will. Hope it meets your eexpectations. 🐧🐧🐧

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  5. Oh I am SO delighted for you Jane, what a wonderful story and marvellous ending. I can picture you lovingly turning the pages, savouring each sentence, and teasing yourself with ‘just ONE more page before I stop and tease myself with waiting to resume’ Sometimes the best things just must get delicately and fully appreciated, not rushed at

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  6. My big find was a first edition of the very first book to win the Booker Prize. (I collect the winners in First Edition). Copies were sometimes available but never at a price I could afford, and because of time zone differences they were always snapped up anyway by US/UK buyers in the middle of the night while I was asleep.
    And then, one night when I was working very, very late on school reports, an email alert from AbeBooks popped up about a copy in South Africa. At a price I could (just about) afford. South Africa was awake at the same time as me, and the US and UK were fast asleep. I hurled off an email, convinced that I was going to miss out again, but no, the bookseller was only too delighted to have a buyer from our half of the hemisphere and packed it up very carefully and posted it that day.
    And now the book is mine, in pride of place on my Booker shelves. I do not really care that Something to Answer For is not a specially good book (turning out to be symbolic of the prize over time, eh?)
    FWIW I reviewed it at The Complete Booker, see http://completebooker.blogspot.com.au/2008/12/something-to-answer-for-by-ph-newby.html

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  7. How wonderful!! Hooray!!! I didn’t think I’d get a first edition of Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net when I first started not really collecting them in about 2008. But she dropped out of favour and popularity and add that to an ebay seller who wasn’t quite sure what they’d got and yes, I managed to get one. Not a first printing first edition signed or anything, but. And it made me happy As did this post of yours!

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  8. Love this post and I completely understand your feelings. I’m so glad you finally got that elusive book, Jane, and hope when you some to read it in full, that it lives up to your expectations. (From the opening it certainly sounds like it will.) A dear friend once lent me her copy of a first book by one of her favourite authors. She stressed to me how precious it was to her and I appreciated her kindness (and trust) in letting me borrow it. I felt I should handle it wearing gloves!

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  9. Oh, to think I almost missed this post!! I am so happy for you, Jane! Very exciting😊! To me, having this book in hand is like holding a valuable artifact from history–besides offering a delightful story. Congratulations.

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  10. Congratulations on the find! I know how it feels! I struggled and struggled to get hold of The Edwardians! It feels like you have acquired a unique and rare piece of art that needs to savored and enjoyed a little bit with great care and yet great joy! Have fun!

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  11. Oh how wonderful! Every book lover can understand this, even if we haven’t had quite the same luck yet with our Desperately Wants (if The Young Ones by Diana Tutton ever appears, I don’t know what I wouldn’t do…) But I have definitely felt the same over some very hard to find AA Milne titles over the years.

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  12. That’s lovely, so glad you finally got it! Back many years ago, before I used the internet (and there wasn’t much of an internet anyway) I wanted a book very badly. It was ‘The Magic Apple Tree’ by Susan Hill. I had borrowed it from the library countless times but couldn’t get one for years. Then on holiday I found one in a bookshop in Bury St. Edmunds, newly republished by Susan Hill, in a lovely clothbound, slipcase version, signed by her! I was so happy to find that.

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  13. This is really exciting! I love it when you’re able to get your hands on a book you’ve wanted for a long time.

    I had a similar, but not-as-thrilling experience this past summer when I helped sort books for our library book sale. Do you remember the movie “You’ve Got Mail”? Near the end, Meg Ryan’s character visits a large book superstore and directs someone to the “Shoes” books, one of which is “Ballet Shoes”.

    I had never heard of these books, but when I was unpacking boxes before the library sale, I came across a never-before-read copy of “Ballet Shoes”. I gasped and everyone in the room stopped and looked at me. “LOOK!” I cried. They humoured me and tried to be excited for my discovery, which was kind of them. I took the book home with me and read it ASAP, and loved it – as I knew I would.

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