Op Shoppery


One of my great pleasures is to fossick in a second hand book shop or one of the local op shops in the hope of unearthing unexpected treasures. But the op shops have been closed for a long time and it must be two years since I was able to rummage freely. Last week I ventured into our local Helping Hands Mission shop and scanned the shelves, and came up with a couple of books by favourite authors that I'd never heard of before, let alone seen, let alone read.

Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden is one of my all-time beloved favourite children's books, but this short story collection, What the Neighbours Did and Other Stories is more in the vein of A Dog So Small or Minnow on the Say: slight, domestic stories about fishing and dogs and cutting down trees. I must admit I was surprised to discover that there were several editions, though some of the stories have a great deal of quiet charm. I particularly enjoyed Still Jim and Silent Jim about a sneaky outing of a grandfather in a wheelchair and his grandson -- shades of The January Stars!

I was even more surprised to learn that Monica Dickens' The Messenger is just book one in a series of four which brilliantly marry magic, time slip and horses! The Messenger is Rose, who is sent back in time by a great grey magical horse to solve a mystery and defeat the fear and anger in the past with an act of love. I so enjoyed the structure of this book, which sees Rose going further back each time until she uncovers the original crime that has scarred this particular house and made it an unhappy place; it's not a million miles away from the time-slip book that I'm working on myself at the moment. 

I can't believe I've never come across these books before; I only know Monica Dickens from her realist adult fiction and her horsey-animal books, like the World's End series. But The Messenger was published in 1985, so I was too old. I found one online reviewer who said she was absolutely obsessed with these books, and I can understand why -- it's an irresistible combination! But on the other hand, another reviewer said she was confused by the jumps back and forward in time, which I could also understand. I definitely need to seek out the other three volumes in this series: I'm hooked!

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