Road Trip Book Haul

We did drive all the way to Hay-on-Wye in Wales, our first ever visit to that country, as we’d heard so much about Hay. We have friends who love the place so much that when they decided to go off on their own to get married, it was Hay they chose as their place to get hitched.

When we got there I must say that I was less than impressed. Do you almost instantly get a feel for the atmosphere of a new place? I do anyway, and Hay just didn’t do anything for me. For one thing there’s something terribly strange about a town full of mainly bookshops and although I adore books I couldn’t help thinking that it would be an improvement if there were more ordinary shops in it, for the inhabitants of the town anyway. After all, you can’t live by books alone. I think Hay is also well known for real ale, and that doesn’t score high on my list of things which are life enriching. I didn’t take any photos but there are loads which you can view here.

It was a grey, wet day when we were there so we obviously didn’t see it at its best, but worst of all, neither of us bought a book – not one. Unbelievable, I know! That always happens whenever I visit a place which has a bookish reputation. The trouble is that there are so many like-minded folks traipsing around that the likelihood is that the books I would have bought have been snapped up already.

My best book treasures have always been found when and where I least expect them to be. Pure serendipity, and that’s the way I like it. So, don’t think for one minute that I didn’t add to my book pile on this trip. Of course I did! Here they are.

books july 2012

Between the Woods and the Water – Patrick Leigh Fermor
The Violins of Saint-Jacques – Patrick Leigh Fermor
Thin Ice – Compton Mackenzie
A Shilling for Candles – Josephine Tey
Take Two At Bedtime – Margery Allingham
Desirable Residences – E.F. Benson (short stories)
The Matchmaker – Stella Gibbons
Down the Garden Path – Beverley Nichols
Renny’s Daughter – Mazo de la Roche
Death at the Dolphin – Ngaio Marsh
Flowers on the Grass – Monica Dickens
King Charles II – Antonia Fraser

Singer Sewing Machine Book
The Book of Samplers – Marguerite Fawdry and Deborah Brown
Needlework School
Embroidery and Colour – Constance Howard
Landscape in Embroidery – Verina Warren

Not a bad haul, some nice old obscure books, but not one Thirkell or Margaret Ogilvy, which is a real disappointment. But that lot should keep me busy for a while!

19 thoughts on “Road Trip Book Haul

  1. What a great and interesting haul of books! I’ve always heard so many wonderful things about Hay-on-Wye – how disappointing for you that it wasn’t really to your liking. I do know what you mean about getting a feel for the atmosphere of a new place – I hate Las Vegas because it makes me feel icky 🙂

    • Anbolyn,
      Well, I’ve never even been to the US – never mind Las Vegas – but just the thought of LV makes me feel icky, and I know a couple who went all the way there to get married too!

  2. I read Between the Woods and the Water last year – but I’m still pretty new to Patrick Leigh Fermor, and I haven’t even heard of The Violins of Saint-Jacques. I’m adding it to my list.

    Sorry to hear there were no Thirkells – are you missing a lot, or just filling gaps?

    • Lisa,
      Apparently The Violins of Saint-Jacques is his only novel. I must admit that I haven’t read any of his books yet and it’s really Debo Mitford’s mentioning of him which makes me want to read his books – soon.

      I’ve probably got about half of Thirkells books and managed to borrow a few others, I have about 6 unread from the 1950s but I want to get some of the earlier ones first. I like to give ‘real’ bookshops the business but as I can’t find any I’m just going to get them from the internet.

  3. Simply MUST go to Wales on our next UK travels – after this year’s wedding of course, so it could be a while…but we haven’t completely checked that square.

    • Pearl,
      Wales has always seemed like a long way to go for similar scenery to Scotland, not as good as it lacks the lochs and proper mountains. They also have huge hedges which you can’t see over as you drive along, it’s like being in a green tunnel, I prefer to see the scenery.

  4. I had a similar reaction to Hay-on-Wye went I went too – and it wasn’t a grey, wet day. I was disappointed, somehow with all those bookshops I should have loved it, but I didn’t, and I thought the books were over-priced.

    I’m glad you found books in other places and I agree that you can find just what you’re looking for when (and where) you least expect it. You found some interesting ones – I haven’t read any by Mazo de la Roche, but her Jalna books were very popular when I used to work in a library years ago. I keep thinking I should try one. My county library has some, but I’ll have to reserve them as they’re not in my local branch.

    • Margaret,
      I read the first 2 Jalna books last year and quite enjoyed them, they were very popular when I was working in libraries too and that somehow put me off from reading them (Catherine Cookson too!) I remember the pink Jalna covers.
      Have you been to Wigton yet? I believe they call it the Scottish Hay, but I suspect it’ll be disappointing and over-priced too.

      • Catherine Cookson was very popular too, but I’ve not read her novels – too depressing, although I have read her autobiography, Our Kate and an anthology, Let Me Make Myself Plain, both of which I liked.

        I haven’t been to Wigtown – but if we’re ever over that side of the country I’d love to go and have a look.

  5. Nice haul! I read ‘nightingale woods’ by Gibbons and really enjoyed it. Have ‘cold comfort farm’ here to get to also. Can’t wait to see your review on her. Lots of new authors here for me too. If your looking for the author that writes about Maine that I like so much, it’s Elizabeth Ogilvie :p

    • Peggy Ann,
      I’ve only read Cold Comfort and Christmas at Cold Comfort. I was amazed (and amused) to see that there’s a place called Cold Comfort in Warwickshire. Elizabeth Ogilvie!! – oh well, she would’ve been around the same area, I think I’ll be using the internet to buy her books.

  6. Good heavens! You and Margaret weren’t impressed with Hay-on-Wye.I heard the same complaints about a lack of town shops and bickering amongst the locals and Richard Booth. Now I don’t feel so bad about not being able to visit,if I ever get back to Eng. Thanks to you,I’ll try very hard to get to the WEST of Scotland! Can I still visit Edinburgh?
    Take care,
    Lorraine Wacob S.

  7. I have not been to Hay, but I would be worried that I would become saturated by the amount of shops and end up buying no books at all.

    Glad to see you got a good haul elsewhere. Look forward to hearing all about them.

  8. I’m surprised you didn’t think Hay had a good selection of shops. For its size, it is remarkable – that increasingly rare thing: a Real Town. It has butchers, bakers and candlestick makers (as well as proper greengrocers and a delicatessen). And the clothes shops attract people from 80-100 miles away. The art and craft galleries are dynamic and interesting and there are something like five antiques shops as well as a large antiques market. And, yes, there are over 30 bookshops.

    When you order a book over the internet do you add on the cost of postage and deduct the thrill of finding not just the book you search for, but the six you discover you cannot leave without owning? And what about the sensual delight of handling a book for the first time – that deeply pleasurable combination of the well-written word and beautiful design. In a secondhand bookshop the pleasure can be quite overwhelming. (Sorry, but I must just break off for a moment and go and sniff a leather binding).

    Where was I …?

    Then there’s the ancient Thursday market, held for 600 years just below the Castle walls. It is quite wonderful, with fresh fish, local bakery and some great local cheeses. And then there’s the stalls selling old tools and junk, and the modern china, and the plants, and the CDs, etc.

    All this in a small town, overlooked by a beautiful Norman Castle stuffed with books, clinging to a foothill of the fabulous Black Mountains and with the River Wye and Offa’s Dyke running through it

    And then one of your correspondents mentions Las Vegas and someone uses the word ‘icky’ and I wonder if, in the middle of this glorious landscape, my words will fall on stony ground.

    • Paige,
      I very rarely buy books on the internet, I’m a keen book sniffer myself but despite having a wide range of interests and eclectic taste in fiction I was disappointed that there was nothing worth buying at Hay. I put it down to there being so many other book-lovers in the place, you have to be really lucky to get there before the good books are snapped up. Hay is a very long drive from Scotland so I’ll take your word for it that it has a good market. We did go into all of the antiques shops too. I won’t be going back as the scenery in Scotland is so much better and we’re tripping over castles, and the River Wye – I chose not to mention it because it was a brown sludgy thing, I’m hoping that that was because of the bad weather. Just a couple of days ago I wandered out of the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and stumbled across some bookshops which I didn’t know about and I managed to buy five books, I could have bought a lot more. That’s the kind of book buying experience I like. Pure serendipity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.