When I was little, we used to buy all our books in WHSmiths. I don’t remember there being a dedicated bookstore in town. If there was, it was situated firmly off the main drag, and with three small, loud girls in tow, my mum’s policy towards going into the city was “get in, get it, get out.” But sometimes we had Smiths vouchers, or even actual money, for birthdays and Christmas, and then we would head to Smiths.
I remember the books being upstairs, whole walls of them. Back then Smiths seemed to stock a much greater range than they do now (probably because I was smaller). I was trying to buy all of Elinor M Brent Dyer’s “Chalet School” books – I only had odd ones and because they formed an ongoing history I was trying to fill the gaps in my collection.
Except one day I didn’t buy a Chalet School book. I bought “The Hounds of the Morrigan” by Pat O’Shea. Knowing me at the time, it was probably the word “Hounds” that attracted me – I was on a long-running and ultimately futile campaign to persuade my mother, the ultimate crazy cat lady, to let me have a dog.
The book was very orange and it had a picture of a couple of kids and some snakelike dogs, along with some quite ugly witches and a figure who could have been a boy or a girl. She had very long hair, but a hard face and odd-coloured eyes.
So I took it home, and I read it, and I loved it, and today I’ve reviewed it for Fantasy Faction because it’s a relatively little-known book and I’d like more people to love it.
A few years later I went back to the same branch of Smiths (there was only one in our town) and, bought “Wyrd Sisters” by Terry Pratchett, and Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonflight”, and the Chalet School was abandoned forever.