Book Beginnings

Last week I found another little secondhand bookshop – The Border Reader – a lovely little shop above a tea room near Melrose in the Scottish Borders. I browsed the bookshelves upstairs and had a cup of Earl Grey tea and a slice of Lavender and Lemon Drizzle Madeira cake downstairs – a most pleasurable afternoon.

And up the stairs I found in the bookcase to the right of the photo a book I’ve had on my wishlist for a while. It’s On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin.

The book begins:

For forty-two years, Lewis and Benjamin Jones slept side by side, in their parents’ bed, at their farm which was known as ‘The Vision’.

The bedstead, an oak four-poster, came from their mother’s home at Bryn-Draenog when she married in 1899. Its faded cretonne hangings, printed with a design of larkspur and roses shut out the mosquitoes of summer, and the draughts in winter. Calloused heels had worn holes in the linen sheets, and parts of the patchwork quilt had frayed. Under the goose-feather mattress, there was a second mattress, of horsehair, and this had sunk into two troughs, leaving a ridge between the sleepers. (page (9)

The Black Hill is not one of the Black Hills of Dakota – known to me only from the song, sung by Doris Day, but it is one of the Black Mountains on the border of England and Wales, although fictionalised in this book. The book was first published in 1982 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize that same year. It’s also been made into a film. It looks to be a gentle, richly descriptive book about lonely lives on a farm, largely untouched by the 20th century. A nice change from all the crime fiction I’ve been reading recently.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy, at  A Few More Pages.

14 thoughts on “Book Beginnings

  1. Margaret – What a delightful afternoon :-). I’m glad you found a book you’ve been wanting, and I truly hope you’ll enjoy it!


  2. I have this in my TBR pile – will be interested to see what you think of it Margaret. Looks a nice bookshop too – and if it does Lavender and Lemon drizzle – sounds delicious!

    Last week in Dorset, I went into a little cluster of bookshops in Bridport. The two secondhand ones were lovely and the owners smilled, said hello and offered help if needed. The new books shop, was totally depressing in comparison and the guy at the till just stared gloomily at me – I was probably interrupting his day-dreams.


  3. Oh, my, I would love to spend a day in that bookshop drinking tea! And the opening lines of the book you found take me right into the lives of those characters. I can almost feel the goose feather mattress, and see those curtains!

    Thanks for sharing your bookshop day and your opening lines.



  4. Hi Margaret,

    From those first few lines, I would definitely want to carry on reading this book.

    I much prefer your cover art, to that of the vintage classic cover, which your link goes to.

    It sounds captivating and I have already added it to my reading list, which unfortunately will not be fulfilled in any bookshop, anytime soon, as I am still on an imposed book-buying ban!!

    Mother-in-law is still busy downloading to her kindle though and as we share an account, I can also read her selection …. Cheating me? well I’m not actually buying anything myself, am I?

    Your shop does look chock full of treasures though and with the added bonus of a coffee shop, who could go wrong!!


  5. What a wonderful teaser! And I just love that shop, but I hope they don´t get too many customers at the same time – I would be afraid of tearing a pile down every time I turned around 🙂


  6. That book shop is just too cute!

    You’re right, that does sound beautifully descriptive. Some of the best books are those where the descriptions are so vivid that you can picture exactly what you’re reading, right down to the fraying quilt! Enjoy it 🙂


  7. What a lovely little bookstore–these are the best with nooks and crannies filled with interesting books to look at. Enjoy your book–it’s always nice to find something you’ve wanted for a while!


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