Friday, 27 June 2014

Jane Austen, Mrs Gaskell and the King David Hotel

The Young Man went back to the Big City - on a Sunday bus, while he still can - and I went back to work.

It's been a fascinating week in the shop.
On Monday three ladies came in from the Jane Austen Bookshop in Novelty, Ohio (what a wonderful name for a town!). They were stocking up with titles that were difficult to get in the States for a big Jane Austen Convention, so they were also looking for books about the Regency period, and diaries of clergymen and so on.

Then a lady came in, and started rummaging around in her bag. "Where can I get more of these?" she asked. She was holding one of the Quirk poetry anthologies that are produced by Chris the Bookbinder. "This was in the B&B I'm staying at, and I was reading it, and one of the poems almost moved me to tears," she said. So I sent her off to find Chris's shop next to the launderette, near the bus stop to Hereford.

Four ladies came in from the new Mrs Gaskell Museum in Manchester. The house she lived in, as the wife of the Congregational Minister, is being refurbished and opened to the public. They had lists of books she had borrowed from the library, and books that she was known to have owned (partly from a sale of the house contents after she died), and they are trying to re-create her library, to give an idea of the books that influenced her work. They were also buying books about Victorian Manchester. It sounds like a fascinating project to be involved in.

And finally there was the lady who bought a book about Palestine just after the Second World War, just as it was becoming the State of Israel. She showed me a photo in the book of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, just after it had been blown up by a terrorist bomb, planted by the Jewish group the Irgun in 1946. "My mother was in the next room to that," she said, "so she survived, and my father came down to help to set up everything again, and that was how they met!" The King David Hotel had been the British Army headquarters, which was why it was a terrorist target.
She was surprised that I knew anything about it, until I told her that my dad had been stationed out there as well, and when I was twelve he sat me down with a book called The Land of Green Ginger, which was all about that period, (and not to be confused with the children's book about a tortoise!) so that I'd know what he'd been through there.

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