Earlier this year, I wrote a guest post on Michael Pryor's blog about one of my favourite books, Peter's Room by Antonia Forest. I mentioned the thrill of finding this rare book on the shelf of a Spanish restaurant in Collingwood, and actually being able to buy it for three dollars.
There is something very special about hunting down your favourite books -- not on eBay or Amazon, but out in the real world of second hand book shops and op shops. For years I dedicated myself to tracking down every book Iris Murdoch had ever written, which was no mean feat, as she wrote twenty-six novels in her long career. (The only one I'm missing is The Italian Girl, which I lent to someone years ago and never saw again.)
I found most of the Green Knowe books second hand; last year I picked up a volume of Joan Aiken short stories I had been searching for ever since I left Mt Hagen. But Antonia Forest is the toughest challenge. Most of her books have been out of print for years and are hideously difficult to find, even on the internet, where they regularly fetch prices of a hundred pounds or more.
Alas, I've only managed to acquire a few of her books. I found End Of Term in a charity shop in Oban, Scotland, in the 1990s. Peter's Room, as I said, surfaced miraculously in a Collingwood cafe a couple of years later. I succumbed and bought Autumn Term in a reprint edition and also The Ready Made Family, which I had never even read, for an exorbitant price online.
And then, just last weekend, I was browsing in a tiny second hand bookshop in Bacchus Marsh when I saw the magic words: Attic Term, Antonia Forest. I thought I was hallucinating. I clutched the book to my breast, scanning the bare two shelves of teenage books for any more, but that was it. Two dollars, people. Two dollars!
I've been exalting ever since. Now if only I could find Cricket Term...