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Delicious descriptions: Elizabeth Jolley on the value of libraries

July 15, 2018

Elizabeth Jolley, The orchard thievesRegular readers will know that in June I joined in Lisa’s (ANZLitLovers) Elizabeth Jolley Week by posting two reviews, one of which was for the novella Orchard thieves. In that post I mentioned the sly humour, but I didn’t really share a quote to demonstrate it. However, I knew that I could always write a Delicious Descriptions post, so here it is.

It comes when the grandmother is walking home from the library. She had urged one of her extra library-book tickets to another library patron because “she knew how awful it was to get home only to discover that the books were familiar, having been read before.” As a librarian by profession, I loved it.

Anyhow, our grandmother is also a bit of a worrier, regularly thinking about various disasters that could befall her or her family:

On the way home the grandmother thought about the special kind of wealth there was in the possession of library-book tickets. They were reassuring and steady like the pension cheque. She never went anywhere without her purse. You could never know in advance what the day had in store. There might come a time when it would be necessary to offer all she had to appease an intruder. She knew of women who spread crumpled and torn newspapers all round their beds at night so that they would hear an intruder coming closer. Or, she might be held at knife point by someone in the street. She would offer all she had in her purse, small change, pension cheque and the library-book tickets. There would be absolutely no need for the villain to either strangle or stab her in order to snatch her purse. She would hold it out to him and tell him he could have it and be off. She would tell him this in plain words. The library-book tickets might even make a changed man of him, especially if he had never had a chance to use a public lending library during a life with all the deprivation brought about by being on the run.

I mean, really, don’t you love it?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    July 15, 2018 10:13 am

    Yes, she was great with her words and descriptions. No matter how serious the situation was, there always seemed to be a bit humour, or a lighter side to the situation. I keep my library receipt of books in my library bag.

  2. July 15, 2018 1:57 pm

    Yes. Yes indeed.
    I always have my library cards with me except when I’m overseas, in case I lose them there. Imagine coming back from a holiday and not being able to borrow until new cards were issued!

  3. July 15, 2018 7:42 pm

    Thaf is awsome! I think that there is potential for a story, probably a lighthearted and not so realistic one, about a thief who does come to accidentally steal library book tickets or something similar.

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