Substances & Shadows

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It’s hard to believe autumn is here already. But the days are shortening, the air is growing brisker, and gradually the city is coming to life again as people trickle back after the long summer break. The autumn issue should now have arrived with subscribers near and far and we do hope you’re all enjoying it. We so enjoy the flurry of interaction with readers that comes in the wake of the new issue so if you have any thoughts or comments (good or bad) please do write in.

On that subject, thankfully the vast majority of readers’ letters are cheering but this quarter brought a handful of delivery related grumbles. A few of you have been in touch to tell us that your autumn issue was dispatched from the printers without a postage sticker, resulting in the maddening combination of a trip to the post office and a postage fee. Many apologies to any readers affected by this blunder. If you were one of the unlucky few, please get in touch with Olivia so we can rectify things. ([email protected] / 020 7033 0258)

Now, back to the more cheering matter of the new term’s literary offerings. New this quarter we have personalized book plates, a wall calendar for 2016, a delightfully illustrated Christmas card and a new paperback edition of Hand-grenade Practice in Peking – Frances Wood’s funny and touching memoir of a year studying in China. And with two new Carey Novels and our 31st Slightly Foxed Edition, Gavin Maxwell’s memoir The House of Elrig to keep us busy, there’s no time to dwell on the back-to-school sinking feeling that comes round each September, no matter how long ago our school days. The young Gavin Maxwell knew this feeling only too well, writing:

Life at school and life at home . . . were so utterly unrelated that it seems now as if they must have run parallel in time and been lived by two different people, rather than in their true alternating sequence. I remember that at the time I used to think of life like telegraph wires watched from a train window – in the holidays they would soar up until it seemed they would climb the sky, only to be inevitably slapped down by the next telegraph post – the term.

In the following extract from The House of Elrig we join Gavin as he enters the strange and bewildering new world of school.

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