Rosie tells me she likes a good book, with a good ending. We’ve struck up a conversation while standing at the bookstall at the local fete.
As a regular, I’ve seen a lot of the selection before. Some because they have been religiously returned to the village-hall storeroom after each event, others because at some point I had bought, read and then donated them again. Some of the bindings are disintegrating, many of the pages are fragile, crumbling at a touch. All of the regulars carry a patina of storage, a kind of dusty texture that forms on books that are rarely used.
A lot of my past is embedded in this stall, and each year I spend time re-reading sections of old friends. They are books that rarely make it to the heap of books I plan taking home, space on my shelf is short enough, but I’m glad to meet them again. Most have long since disappeared from libraries or even charity shops, they’re the sort of pulp fiction that was published in the 1960s and 70s.
Where do books go when they fall out of favour? The bin, I suppose. Call me romantic, but I like to think most at least get recycled into new books rather than mouldering amongst the general landfill. Meanwhile, the magic of the village bookstall is that you never know what might get turned out of someone’s attic.
Rosie and I compare our bargains and talk fiction. She likes historical romance. Her finger marks a page at the back of a novel.
‘Is it any good?’ I say.
‘I liked her first one,’ says Rosie. ‘It was about pirates.’
I gesture at the workhouse scene on the copy she’s holding. ‘You haven’t read this one?’
She had not. ‘I’m just checking the last two pages,’ she says. ‘I wont start it unless it ends right.’
‘In case someone gets killed off?’
‘A bit that, but mostly that it feels right. It’s complicated.’
It is. An ending is such an important part of the writing. It is the last impression, the flavour that lingers as you are walking out of the restaurant. Later, you can clean your teeth, or buy something powerful enough to over-ride the taste, but that was not what the chef, or writer was aiming for, was it?
Rosie had read the cover. Everything about it, picture, title, author and text told her that the subject was one she could enjoy. Reading it would give her a good feeling, but what Rosie knew was that reading isn’t just about the moment. A story, long or short, with a strong ending, resonates. We might carry the mood of it out into our life.