I searched for one of my favourite books a few months ago – we all have them – books we love and know we will read many times over. I couldn’t find it. I rang my daughter and asked if it was on her shelves.
‘Mist Over Pendle by Robert Neill?’
‘I know the book, Mum, but it definitely isn’t here. You must have lent it to someone.’
‘Really? One of my all-time favourites? I may have done, but I can’t remember.’
I think back, wonder when I last had the book and who I could have lent it to – someone who obviously didn’t give it back.
Lending my books remains a source of anxiety. How long before I ask for them to be returned? Should I write my name in the front? Will it be used as a coaster, get chewed up by a dog with a literary appetite, inadvertently find its way to the charity shop or worst of all, be read in the loo?
On the other hand, nothing pleases me more than sharing a book I have loved, and as most of my books just line up along the well-ordered shelves providing insulation and interest to the lounge, it’s good to share the pleasure of a really good read.
In the introduction to my latest publication, Moving Pictures, which is a short story collection, I admit to taking a completely opposite point of view, suggesting that the book is deliberately shared, passed on and then shared again, in other words, set free from a life sitting prettily on a shelf. I suggest that readers can note their name at the back, if they wish, to give the book a reader history, and a life that continues as the book passes through the hands of other readers.
But back to Mist Over Pendle, now that’s remains a mystery, and because I can’t find it I’m desperate to read it again and gallop over the Lancashire countryside in search of witches with 16-year-old Margery.
If anyone out there has my copy, it will be a well-thumbed paperback, Pendle Hill on the front cover, my name in the front.
Please send it back to me!