Wednesday 15 January 2014

Can you identify this book?

Visiting my sister for the weekend, we took an unexpected Sunday shopping trip to Abergavenny, and so an unexpected trip to The Abergavenny Bookshop.

Noticing my excitement as we approached the bookshop, my sister saw sense and took my young niece to a nearby cafe while her partner and I gorged on books - with me discovering I was in the company of someone who could actually spend longer browsing than me. But then, I was on a mission...

I had this idea that when I visited The Abergavenny Bookshop it would be to pick up a copy of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales (because I thought it was set in the town, see below), and so as I wandered around this book was first in my mind.

Working my way through the recommendations, Christmas specials (my visit was a few weeks ago), children's, Welsh language and local interest books - of which there were many - and not forgetting the extensive selection of fiction and non-fiction, I kept an eye out for the book by Thomas, but had no luck. After a brief chat with the bookseller, who helped in my search, we realised the shop had sold out of the book, as I should probably have expected given the time of year and the closing down posters in the window. (At time of writing I believe there is hope for the future of this lovely new books shop.)

Despite being unable to find the book I wanted, The Abergavenny Bookshop still had a large selection of Welsh authors, and so instead I happily purchased Richard Llewellyn's How green was my valley, with several other local interest books picked up between the two of us. Indeed, in a bid to be unique in the fight for sales this bookshop definitely pushes ahead when it comes to Welsh interest titles.

However, despite my enjoyment of the shop I couldn't help but be a little disappointed at missing out on the book I'd wanted, so when we returned home I was shown my niece's copy to enable me to at least read the story. Which is why I need your help.

I'd been looking for A child's Christmas in Wales because I remembered being given it as a child but never getting beyond the first one or two chapters. Only the book I was shown at home was not the story I remembered.

The book I'd started to read was about a little girl who was put on a train to a place she did not want to visit. Before reaching her destination she sees a sign spelling out A-B-E-R-G-A-V-E-N-N-Y and decides to get off the train there instead.

After that all I remember is that at some point a box of coloured pencils appears (perhaps as a Christmas present) and the girl wanders the streets at closing time, at some point ending up outside a toy shop.

This story is the book I'd wanted to buy from The Abergavenny Bookshop. Can you identify it so that when the bookshop stays open I can return and buy the book?

The Abergavenny Bookshop
1 High Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 5RY
Tel: 01873 850380


  1. Dear readers,
    I've spent more than a day dithering about this comment because I'm both pleased and embarrassed to tell you the book has been identified.
    Lots of you helped in an identity search that began years ago, pre-blog. Family and friends have on and off discussed 'that book in Abergavenny' since the mid 90s when a Welsh friend's mum was impressed I wanted to visit the area.
    I've had disagreements over my imperfect memory with many insisting it must by Carrie's War by Nina Bawden. I began to doubt the girl's isolation or the time of year. I never doubted the town.
    So imagine my joy and horror to discover that was the detail I got wrong. The book is set in Aylesbury, and is The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden.
    I'm very grateful to Anna Sayburn (@BloomsburyBlue) for identifying the book, and indeed to everyone who helped my in my quest, in particular Emma from Book-ish in Crickhowell (see next blog post).
    Which leaves just two things for me to do:
    1. Apologise to Abergavenny - sorry.
    2. Find a bookshop in Aylesbury.
    Thank you again for all your help and support, it's been overwhelming to this obviously very amateur book-lover.
    Erica x

  2. So pleased to have been able to help, Emma. I remember the book well, particularly the detail about the train. I've often had that urge to get off at a station because it looks nice, or has a nice name - not that I do it, mind. Not often, anyway. It was nice to remember the book, which was one of many I loved as a child. Maybe I should set myself up as a book detective!
    Best wishes

    1. You're definitely an excellent book detective! Once again, thank you for identifying the book.


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