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.