5 / 5 / 5
After stumbling across Megan's book covers blog, I realized that I had quite a few editions on my shelves that were bought because of her handiwork. Her work is fantastic, as is her shop, Ancient Industries.
Here, she takes part in my summer feature, 5/5/5. The rules are simple. I ask someone brilliant to go to their bookshelves, count 5 shelves up, 5 books in from the left, and answer 5 questions. Designer and merchant Megan Wilson plays along.
1. What's the book?
Sara & Gerald by Honoria Murphy Donnelly, published in 1982.
2. What's it about?
This is a memoir of the author's parents, the Murphys. Wealthy American ex-pats who "discovered" the Riviera off-season (ie summer), and set up a beautiful home in Juan les Pins, called Villa America. They created a life style that was both admired and envied by their artist friends, including Picasso, Léger, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Some abused their hospitality and friendship (Fitzgerald) while some respected it (Léger). Gerald was an important painter and a rather snappy dresser, Sara a beautiful, gracious hostess. Together they were very dedicated parents but were dealt the double blow of losing their two sons in adolescence. Honoria was the only surviving child.
3. What memories do you associate with it?
When I was at art school in London in the mid-80s, I went through my F. Scott Fitzgerald phase (I'm still in it). My flat mate suggested I read Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins, as she had just read it and her head was full of it. I'm not sure why I didn't just borrow her copy but Honoria's memoir was the only book on the Murphys that I found at the book shop. It was indeed a revelation and told from a unique perspective. I didn't read Tomkins' book til years later, but it is Honoria's book that stays with me because it represented a curtain lifted.
4. Where did you get it?
The Angel Book Shop, in Camden Passage, Islington. An excellent local bookshop that closed recently.
5. What kind of shelves does it rest on?
This was plucked off the shelf in my library (see last image, above), a drab spare room that we then painted Scottish red*. A carpenter custom built the shelves, floor to ceiling on all 4 walls and around the windows. We painted these an off white and you can still see the red peeking through above the books and around the door. The books are arranged alphabetically, by necessity.
* a Scottish country house red, the kind of bold colour that they use in dining rooms, sitting rooms or hallways.