Another day in the bookshop. Well, the Elvis books haven’t gone anywhere. I’m in the back of the shop where we store our overstock of books and I come across one of my father’s books. It’s Disraeli’s Grand Tour.

grand tour

Ahhhhh, I think … I tidy it up a bit and flick through it. Have I read it, I wonder? I come to the dedication: To Victoria. For a moment I think, ‘Who’s she?’ Before my marbles return and I remember that Victoria is me. Oh hello me, I think. Victoria. Part of the problem is that I was never called Victoria as a child, always Vicky. So even though my own writing name is Victoria I don’t really identify with the name at all. In the copy he signed for me, Dad recognized this because he writes next to Victoria Vicky with lots of love from the author, Daddy. Daddy is what he called his own father but I called him Dad. My father was a scrupulously fair man so as the youngest child  I got his 6th book dedicated to me after his parents, my mother and my two older sisters had theirs. He was also quite formal so he uses my full name even though it wasn’t one I ever remember him calling me.

Despite the cold, I lounge in the back of the shop reading his book. I like this bit where my father explains why writing his original biography of Disraeli took him eight years by using a quote by Dr Johnson concerning why it took Pope so long to produce his translation of the Iliad.

“Indolence, interruption, business and pleasure, all take their turns of retardation; and every long work is lengthened by a thousand causes that can and ten thousand that cannot be recounted.”


I think I might try that next time my agent asks me how close I am to finishing my WIP. I have the feeling that my sisters and I were one of the interruptions and hopefully one of the pleasures as well, since two of us were born within those eight years and one of us two years before.

Disraeli was as far as I’m aware the only British Prime Minister who was also a best selling novelist. Imagine that today! What kind of novels do we think Theresa May would be writing if she were a novelist, or David Cameron or Tony Blair or John Major. The mind boggles. Mind you, Bill Clinton has just written a novel with James Patterson titled The President is Missing, although I daresay Patterson did all the writing. I wonder what that’s like.

Eventually I have to do some work. I come across this book: The Reader on the 6.27 *, which is about a man who works in a paper recycling plant and every day saves some pages from the maw of the recycling machine and reads them out to the people on his commute to work.

the reader

I decide I have to buy it. Maybe I should start reading out pages from the books I chuck in the recycling sacks on the journey back home on the bus. On the other hand …

As for things falling out of books. This week it’s bookmarks of koalas, anarchists and the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction.


I like the bookmark for the Anarchist Bookfair. When I turn it over there is the phrase ‘annus horribilis’ written in biro on the back. The Queen used this phrase to describe her year in a speech at the Guildhall in 1992, so maybe that’s the date of the bookmark.

There at the top of the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction shortlist is Anna Burns for No Bones. Sixteen years later she won the Booker Prize with Milkman. Well done, Anna Burns. Well done indeed.

* I have started it and am thoroughly enjoying it.




    • It was touching – there we both were in the book, so to speak! I haven’t finished ‘Reader’ yet but so far I’m finding it charming. A very good January read! We recycle quite a lot of books in the shop so I recognize the desire to save something from the pulping machine.

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  1. The pulping machine sounds like something out of a horror film for books! You can imagine young novellas being warned by their parents that they’ll end up in the pulping machine unless they mend their ways… And I loved that book – made me long for something similar to happen on the commuter route to London, but no such luck (so far).

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  2. You appear remarkably calm for someone who has, by chance, just come across a book, not only written by their father, but dedicated to THEM. (But maybe it happens all the time.) I probably would have gone into shock quickly followed by the need to tell everyone in the shop! And what a wonderful title. What was his Grand Tour? And did your father enjoy researching it, I wonder, perhaps taking a research Grand Tour himself.
    As for PMs writing novels – I think Mrs May should write a self-help book on Resilience, because, by God, whatever you think of her politics, you have to admire her ability to just … keep … going …

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    • Ha ha a self help book on resilience absolutely! I love it. It was a lovely moment actually. I don’t come across his books that often so whenever I do … I would normally tell people but the volunteer I was working with wasn’t …how to put it … the most aware of individuals so rather than risk an indifferent response I kept it to myself!

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    • … and he did do his own Grand Tour of sorts in that he went and stayed in Jerusalem for 5 weeks and I went too with my mother being about 15 years old at the time. It was the most extraordinary place and I loved being there. Dad was supposed to be writing but I also remember him being obsessed with the world service because an election had been called in the UK and he was interested to know what was going on!

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  3. I love the fact that you can pick up a book by your father and think: oh yes, that book he dedicated to me. It sounds like a beginning of a novel to me… I am still waiting for you to discover a kipper in one of your books (it amazed me when I heard a librarian say that’s what she found one morning – a kipper!).

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    • A kipper – that is so weird. how do you mislay a kipper? We recently got a valid passport in one of those heavy political biographies. Leading to a long discussion as to how it got there. My take on it being no one would take a heavy book on a plane and use a passport as a bookmark but others disagreed.

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