Saturday 13 November 2010

What the Classes Read

Weybridges buy hardbacks and keep them in their dust jackets and only open them a crack so as not to break the spine. Howard says the idea of damaging books is morally repulsive. It means the Weybridges can’t read on the bus or train, but they don't mind because they travel everywhere by car. At home they prop the books on a carved wooden book rest to read, either on the dining room table or in bed.

Upwards buy paperbacks, break their spines, turn down their pages, drop them in the bath, throw them away and give them to Oxfam in crates, but they have bookshelves all round the walls full of orange Penguins, blue Pelicans, grey world classics, green-and-white detective stories, Picadors from the 80s, green Viragoes. Sam cuts fat books in half so she can put them in her bag or read them on the bus. On holiday in the wilds, she tears off the flyleaves to use as loopaper.

Eileen Weybridge belongs to a book group and reads the novels of the moment, which tend to be sentimental treatments of a current "issue".

Teales have one bookshelf in the living room which is only half-full. They read car repair manuals, crochet pattern books and Harry Potter. Jen listens to self-help audiobooks and is thinking of buying a Kindle.

Stow-Crats have hardbacks about Queen Elizabeth I and the Sackville-Wests. They have a library of leatherbound books in the west wing, but nobody ever reads them. They leave a pile of paperbacks in every guest bedroom, and used to put a tin of biscuits and a carafe of water on the bedside table – a hangover from pre-running water days.

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