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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Shelf Life 6

This version of Shelf Life is filmed on a slightly lower budget. In the true spirit of the enterprise, and to avoid any responsibility for a tasteful choice, I've selected a random shelf to talk about, and the offerings on display are more modest than readers of previous weeks will be accustomed to.
The unlucky shelf that fell under inspection on this occasion was the small glass cabinet referred to as the poetry cabinet. Now as far as I’m aware, the Poetry cabinet doesn't contain a great deal more poetry than many of the other cases in the shop, but rather has gone from being a ‘cabinet in which poetry is stored’ to a cabinet with the moniker Poetry. As a result, the shelf is a mix of items you would not necessarily expect to find languishing next to each other.

Appropriately enough, the best example of this is the copy of Eragon glaring at us from the very end of the shelf. For the many of us who I imagine are unfamiliar with the premise, it involves that sassy looking dragon on the cover rampaging over half a continent with a beleaguered human in tow, learning all sorts of vaguely heart-warming life lessons on the way. The main recommendation for this particular copy of highly derivative fantasy is the fact it has been signed by the author – this is true for much of our modern fiction, some of which contains original ideas. This is not to say Eragon is direct plagiarism, so much as it very carefully avoids it. Nevertheless, any young reader who likes the field but is looking for a new series would enjoy the copy, as Paolini’s style is easily accessible and the presentation of the copies has always been marvellous. Like many of our modern firsts, Eragon is perfect for a gift, particularly for a child or younger sibling.

If you move a little deeper into the woods, we find a sinister work of historical fiction – Captive Royal Children. Despite the jaunty cover and the whimsical illustrations, this book is a reconstruction of the imprisonment and implied executions of many historical/hysterical nobles, including Henry V, Lady Jane Grey and the murdered Princes in the Tower. Most notable is that G I Whitham chooses to tell the story through the eyes of the children present at the time of these events, which provides an unusual and compelling viewpoint that is unusual for the subject matter. Thankfully, it reads in the same drifting manner as an Arthurian legend, which helps soften the blow when the characters drop faster than in an episode of Game of Thrones.  Worth considering for the casual historian, or those with morbid fascinations.

Continuing on our theme of books Better Left Alone, we encounter The Guardsman and Cupid’s Daughter. Now, no Google search will return a synopsis of this selection of poetry to you. I would know, I tried. So I read a few verses, and I don’t understand it any better. To quote the last passage of the book – “I’d like to make the great big world a lump of marzipan and suck it”, said Jenny. “Me too”, said Anne. I’m aware that you can make anything look strange out of context, so I imagine the best way to understand exactly what Jenny meant by this is to read the rest of the poem,..but I daren’t.

If none of the above titillate your fancy, you might be best served by our tailored catalogues. Contact any of the staff here at Henry Sotheran Ltd with your interests, and we can put together a list of available books for you. You can reach us on, or on our office number 02074396151.

Eric Gill Exhibition Launch Night!

Don't forget to join us this evening for the launch of our latest exhibition, Eric Gill Prints and Books.

To indulge in the à la mode tastes for monochromatic, this exhibition is a feast of woodcuts on various paper types, alongside a selection of books from the Golden Cockerel Press.

RSVP to attend for the opening night preview to

The exhibition will close on Friday 10th April '15.