Thursday, 14 October 2010

Librarians in literature 2

I mentioned before all of my holiday breaks that I had been lent a bibliography of librarians in literature and that I had sought out some titles which had appealed to me from it in the hope that I would blog about them. Unfortunately, this sort of fell by the wayside, as I have now read three from my original list, but failed to write about any of them.

First up was That uncertain feeling by Kingsley Amis. Many of you will be aware of Kingsley Amis as the author of Lucky Jim, a classic university campus novel. I'd read Lucky Jim but always thought it compared unfavourably to other examples of the genre, such as Malcolm Bradbury's The history man or David Lodge's books. That uncertain feeling tells the story of John Lewis, a public librarian, who is pursued by one of his customers. It didn't surprise me as a plot device as many librarians I know have been stalked/harrassed! (fortunately not myself). What I liked most about the book was the description of John Lewis's marriage and insight given into that, but on the whole, whatever it was that I didn't really like about Lucky Jim was probably what I didn't especially like about That uncertain feeling. So if you liked Lucky Jim, then I would probably recommend this - it's good to see books about librarians! Apparently it has been made into a film with Peter Sellers and I wouldn't mind seeing that, can't think of too many films with librarians in.

Second was DE Stevenson's Young Clementina. I came across DE Stevenson last year, when I read the fantastic Miss Buncle's book (published by Persephone) and its sequels. I didn't enjoy the Bloomsbury Group Mrs Tim of the regiment so much, but I quite looked forward to reading this. And it was very good. I can't remember too much of the plot now I'm afraid and it's gone back to the library, which is a bit of a cop-out I'm afraid.

Thirdly, Business as usual by J. Oliver and A. Stafford. This was an absolutely hilarious book which I'd like to see back in print. It's based on the letters of a young girl who fills in the year before she plans to get married, by leaving home and taking up a job. Set probably in the 1950s, we follow her progress living in a bedsit, budgeting for stockings, and working her way up in the lending library of a department store. It's told through the letters that she writes to her fiance and parents and as the year passes she makes some interesting discoveries about herself and what she wants from life. It is a wonderful insight into the world of the commercial lending libraries.

I've still got another two librarians novels from the library to read, plus a Chalet School fill-in title which centres on a librarian, so hopefully there will be another post on the subject soon.


  1. The Stevenson and Business as Usual sound very good...and thank you for reminding me of Lodge as I have been meaning to read something by him.

  2. I was a librarian as a part-time job in college...sometimes, I wonder how I didn't choose a career so perfect for me.. but regardless of that, these books all sound wonderful. David Lodge's Author, Author was one of my favorite books last year!

  3. I read one that I think someone suggested to you and that was Summer by Edith Wharton. It was excellent.

  4. Stacy - Business as usual is fantastic but so long out of print.

    Audrey - what did you end up doing instead?

    Cath - yes, I will definitely read that one soon :)

  5. Business as Usual sounds like a hoot!

  6. The last one sounds so good. I wonder if there were young ladies that took a year to prepare for marriage in this way.


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