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That’s how my great-aunts dismissed books. Like all households they had Bibles, prayer books, a cookery book or two, and “ready reckoners” with curious rod, pole or perch measurements. The prayer books were miniscule with tissue paper pages and tiny print, but the horrors of childbirth could be imagined from The Churching of Women.

I have my grandmother’s Enquire Within upon Everything should I need to address the Younger Son of an Earl, prepare a potion for my children because I have made them sick with Brimstone and Treacle, or dance a Quadrille.

What did they do for stories? Woman’s Weekly perhaps, but I think it was taken for the knitting patterns. My mother had a collection of Home Chat magazines that might have contained stories, but I remember its “make do and mend” fashion pages.

Himself and I have shelves of dust collectors in every room. When it comes to novels he and I rarely read the same authors. A mutual favourite is the Bryant and May detective series by Christopher Fowler. Having finished The Water Room I suggested it could go to a charity shop. ‘No,’ he said, ‘when I’m old(!) I’ll have forgotten the plot and will read it again.’

I am not a re-reader of novels. (I can spend hours dipping into Enquire Within. I think I need paragraph 1530 Rules of Conduct drawn up by the celebrated Quakeress, Mrs Fry.)

Exceptions to my no rereading rule are Jude the Obscure – but not Tess of the D’urbervilles, too many dramatisations perhaps – and The Diary of a Provincial Lady, maybe the latter as I have a curiosity for outdated domestic detail, engendered by pouring over those early self-helps.

I think I may be alone among my fellow ninevoices. Tanya has declared that she will not read a novel unless she considers it will be worthy of rereading. This is evident from her character analyses of the works of Austen, Eliot, Trolloppe and many more. Often, too, she is reminded of passages from her favourite novels. However, she has inspired me to buy and rediscover Barbara Pym. I probably read library editions before: one way of limiting the dust collectors.

To read and reread, or enjoy the memory of the first experience? which may, of course, be faulty.

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