I take a lot of pride in just knowing that each book in my collection is a vault of secrets.There are telltale signs that do more than just reveal where each book has been.There are some with what I like to call 'tears from the rain',or the after effects of keeping books in bags that aren't water proof.Others bear signs of insufferable suffocation,a consequence of stuffing a bulky book along with a plethora of necessities in a container.The 'fresh from the crop' variety are those that remain untouched;some laden with dust and slithering silverfish, and others spic and span from years of imprisonment in an airtight(or so I believe) bookshelf.
'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' is an exception.My mother gave the book rave reviews,she passionately maintained that it was 'more poignant than 'Jude the Obscure''.For an adolescent the impending appeal of a book increases exponentially when it bears the whiff of a century old scandal.My mother bought it as one would acquire a relic.I began to read the story of a maiden of aristocratic descent, born into poverty and duped into being scarred for life.Hardy's gradual narrative with rural overtones can tire the impatient reader.I read three fourths of it and moved on to Dostoyevsky(Hardy is rarely as intense and as dramatic).
Years later,I turned to Hardy again.I suppose it's safe to assume that in literary terms,age caught up with me.I re-read it and understood the melancholy and the dignified suffering of Hardy's people.For the first time,I saw the breathtaking splendour of the English countryside that formed the core of Hardy's work.I grew accustomed to his style and then I was mugged. My handbag,the one taken by the thief, had a copy of 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'.
A few months later,my mother bought another copy of 'Tess' to make up for the loss of the first one.The new book is from a different publisher and it stands eagerly,in its unused yet familiar glory,waiting to be read again.When an old book goes missing,a new one arrives to take its place.