My favourite book came into the shop this week in a hard back version I’d never seen before. It’s called Firmin and is by Sam Savage and is about a rat, which lives in a second hand bookshop, and learns to read. Read this book and you will never feel the same way about a rat again. How I love it. Here’s the book produced by Weidenfeld and Nicholson with a lovely fake nibble along the top of it.

Firmin cover

‘A rat of deep humanity and intelligence’ says Philip Pullman.

What a creative piece of publishing! So obviously I cleaned it up and bought it.

Books may be stored in all kinds of places before they are donated to us and those places can be dirty and damp and vermin infested. So sometimes books do come in which have been chewed. Mice, rats…? Who knows? Children’s books may well have been chewed by babies who are teething. Whatever has chewed them, they get thrown out immediately, as do books which are covered in mould. Some of those you can feel tickling your lungs in a way you know is not to be recommended.

I experienced something of this recently when going through my father’s papers with my sisters prior to sending them off to a library. They’d been stored in a garage and mice had got in to one box and some of my father’s correspondence had clearly been turned into mouse bedding. So it goes. We just have to hope that anything of interest was in the top half of each page since the mice attacked from the bottom up. The papers are somewhere safe now where no mouse can reach them or read them.

This week it is the question of sticky labels I am pondering. To try and remove or not. You know the ones those round labels saying three for two or Richard and Judy’s Book Club or long listed/short listed for the Booker/Costa/Orange etc. Or as read on BBC Radio 4. If they’re relatively new they can be peeled off quite easily and don’t leave a residue. However if the book is older and has a more papery cover or it’s sat in the sun for a while,  then getting the label off without tearing the cover can be tricky, and sometimes you don’t know how tricky until you start doing it. Then you’re scraping label glue off with your finger nails for the next ten minutes and you end up with a book looking scruffier than if you’d just left the label there in the first place.

No saints and butterflies falling out of books this week. Instead, the card of a man who is a partner at a large city law firm, a bookmark of a Parisian seafood restaurant called La Marée, several sheets of toilet paper (unused) and an old Waterstone’s bookmark with a quote from H.G. Wells.

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.


I took nineteen more of my books to the shop bringing it up to a grand total of 60 in three weeks. Not bad. I’m feeling rather pleased with myself and sense my shelves are breathing more easily but then my partner says, ‘It’s a drop in the ocean, isn’t it?’ And I look and think maybe I should adopt a more brutal approach. Maybe I should attack my white-spined Picadors. My Coastings and my Songlines, my States of Desire and my Beloveds. Maybe it’s time for them to go as well. I’m gradually getting into the swing of things. Marie Kondo would be pleased with me, I think.


  1. Firmin sounds lovely! I’m going to read it for sure.

    No-one who loves books ever came up with that sticky label idea. They are horrendous! A blight on our reading matter.

    I’m very impressed by your clearing out – I suspect Marie Kondo would view me as a lost cause 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Madame Bibi. The sticky labels are a pain, aren’t they? My clearing out is helped by the fact that each week I actually go and work in a second hand bookshop so what’s my excuse not to … Also things have been getting a bit cramped…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve begun to look forward to finding messages in my inbox bearing the words ‘New post on Victoria Blake’. I always hope it will be another installment of Tales From The Book Trade. I was completely ignorant of Firmin before reading your post. He sounds like a wonderful character. How sad about your father’s letters, though. However, it seems you are doing a magnificent job of decluttering your library. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very glad you’re enjoying them Paula. In all we had 20 boxes of his papers and only one was a little bit nibbled so a good thing we checked them when we did! Fingers crossed on the continuing de-cluttering although it’s a bit like throwing out old parts of myself. Maybe not such a bad thing!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Important sticky labels! We do sometimes get library books (donated from our local library) in and then we have to make the decision about whether we remove the page holding all the labels or not. For obvious reasons library books tend to be very well used!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Vicky – did I not give you a copy of my own book on decluttering??? A massive oversight on my part …. Letitia has one, I’m confident of that. “Eat That Elephant – Proven Systems for Becoming Clutter Free”. You might have second hand copies in your shop, hopefully once folk have read, digested (not in the way the mice were your father’s papers!) and taken action inspired by it. Otherwise it’s an Amazon (I know, I know, but heigh….) purchase. One kind of decluttering leads to another , and another and….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Victoria yes I’m getting a feel for that – the one thing leading to another. 60 books will lead to…. well, at the moment more books I think. It’s actually interesting going through and finding my past selves lurking on those shelves, some of which I want to keep and others happy to let go.


  4. You so should be proud of yourself! I’m not sure I ever thought I would see they day … How are you feeling about it all?
    Firmin sounds wonderful. What date was it?
    One of my daughter’s favourite childhood books was about a rat – there’s something brilliantly rebellious about children’s books with a rat as the central character.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m feeling tentative about it! The first 60 were easy but now it starts to bite a bit more. Firmin with its lovely subtitle of Adventures of a Metropolitan Low Life was published in 2006. I love the fact that the way he starts to read is by eating the books. He then goes on to develop a great love for literature. I loved the film Ratatouille about the rat who wanted to be a chef, that was sheer genius!


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