Well I had the oddest birthday yesterday. I mean the very fact that I turned forty-four is odd all by itself, but having a birthday on a Monday is never really a recipe for true celebration and so I found myself sitting in Starbucks all alone nibbling at a Croque Monsieur and sipping spearmint tea, while feeling rather stupidly breathless with bookish excitement about The Button Box by Lynn Knight, a gorgeous ode to the domestic and working lives of women in the last century. The blurb from the book...
"I used to love the rattle and whoosh of my grandma’s buttons as they scattered from their Quality Street tin.
An inlaid wooden chest the size of a shoe box holds Lynn Knight’s button collection. A collection that has been passed down through three generations of women: a chunky sixties-era toggle from a favourite coat, three tiny pearl buttons from her mother’s first dress after she was adopted as a baby, a jet button from a time of Victorian mourning. Each button tells a story.
‘They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us’ said Virginia Woolf of clothes. The Button Box traces the story of women at home and in work from pre-First World War domesticity, through the first clerical girls in silk blouses, to the delights of beading and glamour in the thirties to short skirts and sexual liberation in the sixties..."
Are you breathless too??
For here we have a book that deliciously combines our love of the kind of vintage notions we all remember rattling in an old tin from our girlhood with a tapestry of stories from domestic history and Lynn Knight's own memory box.
So there I sat opening and shutting my new book: enduring and rather enjoying the kind of twitchy anticipation that will not let me commit to reading the first page of a book I am excited about until the circumstances are just right. Until I was sat propped up by lots of pillows, reading by candlelight with a cup of chamomile at my side. Not in the midst of chattering Mummies and beardy students in Starbucks. Not even later that night, when I would end up eating Dominos with Ste and Finley, sipping wine, watching Modern Family and opening a pile of presents so high it rather felt like Christmas. No. Not on my birthday.
But tonight. Tonight I think is just right. My hair is washed and my starched pyjamas are scented with lavender. The house is quiet. Ste working at the computer and Finley spinning around behind the glass wall of the conservatory. And here I am. The blank screen of the televison an invitation, nay an instruction to read. One perfect Hotel Chocolat Rose creme on a polka dot saucer next to me (one really is enough), the dog curled up with his head on my ankles and my favorite black velvet floral cushion perched on my knee ready to prop up The Button Box...
Yes. Tonight is just right. Even if I am forty four and without doubt as middle-aged as middle aged can be.
Hells bells, I am middle-aged. Thank heavens for books.
P.S: Sadly as far as I can see The Button Box is not yet available in the US, but is currently an absolute steal on Amazon.Co.Uk at just £4.99 when I paid £15.99 in Waterstones only yesterday!