chestnut book blog

Read. Recommend. Revel.


A gift of books

Recently, my lovely Grandad gave me a gift of books. Here they are in their new home.


This set of Tennyson and Dickens, the Dickens in particular, bring back such strong memories of my childhood; seeing Grandad reading them, their wise and solemn presence in living room as I grew up and the smell of age and much love when I opened them. This is why they were so much more than a gift of leather, paper and ink; they were the gift of memories. So now these books will stand in my home, watching over me as I age and perhaps one day, I will pass them on myself to a daughter, son, niece or nephew. I will pass them on to someone who loves books as much as I do, as much as my Grandad does. In their covers will be preserved all of our memories of reading, of our family and of our homes. These books are my heirlooms and I will treasure them. Do you have books that are heirlooms?

Beautiful Books

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E-Readers are becoming more and more popular and soon most commercial novels will be available only in e-ink. Whether or not this is a good thing I am undecided, but I do think this means that there is again a place in the world for really beautiful books. As physical books get rarer, people will only purchase their absolute favourites in hard copy and so the bindings and covers will be ever more important. That is my hunch anyway. I have a few beautiful hardbacks thanks to my grandparents: a collection of Thomas Hardy novels, a set of Antony Trollopes and a set of leather-bound Dickens, all of which I treasure. The other day whilst in Foyles, I bought a beautiful book myself. I saw this Barnes & Noble edition of The Scarlet Letter and felt compelled to purchase it (maybe for sentimental reasons with it being one of my MA dissertation books!). It is clearly too beautiful to go on my crowded books shelves in our box room (which I fondly call my ‘library!’) so I will have to find a home for it in the living room I think!

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Barnes & Noble edition

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Barnes & Noble edition

Dickens’ Gad’s Hill

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My life is being completely dominated by Olympic fever at the moment so it is difficult to write about anything else (especially after such a wonderful weekend of medal after medal for Team GB!). However, I am going to try! After a trip to the Olympic Park to see Hockey on Saturday (still sporting my patriotic nails and shoes!), we went to a rare opening of Gad’s Hill on Sunday. Gad’s Hill Place was Charles Dickens’ beloved house in the country and the place he died.

Gad's Hill Place

Gad’s Hill Place

 It was a very handsome house in its day and it is now a slightly eccentric school building. A particular highlight was seeing Dickens’ desk and chair – like the famous engraving, it seemed as if it was just waiting for him to return.
Dickens' desk

Dickens’ desk

Earlier this year, I read Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography of Dickens as I knew relatively little about him. I’d really recommend it as a very readable introduction to Dickens’ life. A picture of a complicated character emerged – not always terribly likeable, but certainly interesting. That book was very useful background for this visit as it helped me appreciate my visit to Gad’s Hill properly I think, knowing how important it was to him. A plaque on the wall outside his study was particularly poignant I thought.

Gad's Hill Place plaque

Gad’s Hill Place plaque

Dickens was proud of the house’s Shakespeare connections – Gad’s Hill is the site of Sir John Falstaff’s historic robbery and this leads me nicely onto my Shakespeare challenge for the remainder of the year… I mentioned in a previous post (here) that I was going to read one new (to me) Shakespeare play per month as there were significant gaps in my knowledge I feel I need to rectify. I am going to start with the history plays and so stay tuned for some more Falstaff in September!