Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sixpence House

Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins

Being a book-lover, I confess I feel guilty for not liking this book any more than I did. But while the town of Hay sounds like a book-lover's dream vacation destination and Collins has a pretty good sense of humour, the point of this book was rather lost on me. Collins and his wife decide they can't afford to live in San Francisco any more and are craving a rural setting so they move not to a small town in the US, but across the Atlantic to Wales (with their baby son and hundreds upon hundreds of their own books). They'd visited Hay on vacation and liked it, so they try their hand at living there. But the town is a bit too weird and they can't find an affordable, non-deathtrap house, so they come back (apparently to live in a small town in Oregon or Vermont, which would have made sense in the first place). They don't even live in the titular Sixpence House, they just try to buy it before realizing it's a deathtrap. Collins peppers the book with passages from obscure books that he finds in Hay and there are some interesting characters in the townsfolk (particularly Richard Booth, the "King of Hay," who turned it into a bibliophile's mecca), but overall, I didn't find it particularly gripping. I'd certainly be happy to visit Hay one day, though!

I think the most interesting thing about this book was a serendipity moment - Nick Hornby was staying in Hay when he wrote the first column for the Believer that was included in The Polysyllabic Spree. I remember thinking, "I'm going to be reading a book about that town!"

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