Monday, 23 November 2009

Something beginning with (Salway)

As part of my rather successful attempt to buy less books, I have been making a heroic onslaught on my TBR bookcase - I have removed a couple of titles which I really don't think I will read, and I am trying to get through some of the backlog. My goal is to go into 2010 with only two shelves of TBR books - one for Virago Modern Classics, and one for everything else. I think this will be possible, certainly once I have packed some books for my skiing holiday! The trouble with the TBR is often I can't remember quite why I bought a certain book.

It wasn't until I looked properly at Something beginning with by Sarah Salway that I realised the only reason I had picked it up in the charity shop was because the principal character had the same name as me, Verity. Verity is an unusual name, and I've not met very many others in my life. I've not seen many in fiction either, with the exception of Verity-Ann in the Chalet School series.

However, although that might seem to have been a somewhat strange reason for buying the book, it turned out to be a little gem. The story itself could easily be dismissed as "chick-lit" - it is predominantly about the lovelife and affairs of Verity and her best friend, but the way it was told built up a beautiful picture of a slightly naieve girl, struggling to work out her place in the world. Something beginning with has a very unusual fragmentary structure where the story is told through an A-Z glossary; so as Verity shares her thoughts on "ambition", "baked beans", "friends", we learn more about her and her friends. This could have been a very annoying device, but Salway used it to good effect and I found myself intrigued by the words that she was choosing and interested to see how the story would develop in this way.

I am going to seek out some more of Salway's work (from the library!), and remain on the hunt for books with Verity's in them.


  1. I love the fact that you picked this up due to the characters name! It is great that you enjoyed it too. I'm sure I've come across a few books with Veritys in - unfortunately I can't remember which ones now. I'll keep my eyes peeled for them now though.

  2. I like books with my name in it too. David Roberts has a historical mystery series set in the 1930s featuring Verity Browne, war correspondent and communist! The first book is Sweet Poison. Check it out!

  3. So glad you liked this! Sarah's work is very original.

  4. I haven't heard of this author Verity so its one that I might now look out for! Isn't it funny how subconsiously books with our names in appeal to us.

  5. Thanks Jackie!

    Sakura - you have an unusual name too - have you had much success?

    Cornflower - I picked up another book by her from the library yesterday called Tell me everything.

    Simon - have you found many Simon's in books?

  6. This sounds really good, I do like it when a character has the same name as you!

  7. It's a Japanese name (cherry blossom) so it crops up occasionally in Japanese books, manga and movies, although it's still not that common in Japan. My most recent find was in Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore.

    I'm now going to go and check out some Salway!

  8. Ah, I knew I'd read a series with a Verity in, and couldn't place it: but Sakura has reminded me! If you haven't read the David Roberts series I do recommend it. I think the final one is due to come out fairly soon.

    I have always loved coming across Sophies in books, ever since The BFG!

  9. The man who plays 'Ken' on Coronation Street has a daughter named Verity. It's a lovely name and reason enough to buy a book, absolutely!

  10. I forgot all about Verity-Ann in the Chalet School! Happy memories (still to reread).

    Sakura is a beautiful name and I knew it meant cherry blossom as I am somewhat obsessed with cherry blossom and it is one of about five Japanese words I know.

    There was a VMC recently that you read that I think had a Claire in it; I do like to read books with characters with my name.

  11. Sakura - yes, I remember that as I learned a song at school using your name!

    Sophie - of course, the BFG!

    Darlene - I didn't know that about "Ken" - usedto be a big Corrie watcher.

    Claire - VerityAnn is only in the later books...

  12. I've come across Verity as a surname in fiction - does that count?

    Marguerite Verity, first appears in Girls of the Hamlet Club by Elsie J Oxenham. M V is also mentioned in some of the books in the "Abbey" series and towards the end of the series, Marguerite's niece (Miss Verity) becomes the French teacher at the Wycombe based school.

  13. Ooh, how intriguing. I've read a couple of the Abbey Girls books but not obviously those ones! I think that does count, so thanks for mentioning it Geraldine!

  14. Glad that it counts. I'm re-reading the Abbey series at the moment. I try to re-read the Abbeys and the Chalets annually, don't always manage to get through both series in the same year. I've completed the Chalets, but a very long way to go with the Abbey books.

    I just wish that EJO had made the Geraldine in Girls of the Hamlet Club a nicer person - more like me, giggle.

    Still I do have EBD's "Gerry Goes to School" to fall back on, though I never, ever shorten my name to Gerry.


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