Pamela Hansford Johnson’s The Philistines & The Book-Buying Habits of Bloggers

Bernadette (Kathy Baker) reading "Emma" in "The Jane Austen Book Club"

Bernadette (Kathy Baker) reading “Emma” in “The Jane Austen Book Club”

Book bloggers are an intense bunch.  Think of all that writing with no reward except to share our avidity for reading.

I was thinking about the act of book-blogging because it is  National Readathon Day, a pro-literacy event sponsored by The National Book Foundation, Penguin Random House, Goodreads, and Mashable

I was busy during official readathon hours, but  I made up for it later.  I finished Pamela Hansford Johnson’s remarkable novel, The Philistines, an exploration of the psychology of an unhappy woman who marries a suburban banker after she realizes she has no talent for writing.  Her mother, an artistic widow, is appalled.

What else should I do?  I have no future.”

“There’ll be something…something.”

“Oh, something!” Gwen cried, with a bitterness that made her instantly ashamed.

the philistines pamela hansford johnson 51Nrm0P8kwLFrom the beginning, we understand that unconventional Gwen is headed for disaster.  She and Clifford live with his  mother and sister, and never move into their own place.. Motherhood does not fulfill her, and the social life at the club is monotonous.  She develops a crush on a doctor, and it is not returned. She fantasizes about him for years.. I was struck by the intensity of the crush, an emoition so common among women in their thirties, yet largely unwritten about in novels. Perhaps romance is more exciting, but how many women actually sustain themselves by fantasies ? More on this next week.

Johnson always breaks taboos by delving into forbidden psychological territory.


There is a new trend among book bloggers:  we say at the beginning of every year we are going to read only from our shelves.

We are going to be like Susan Hill in Howards End Is on the Landing, a wonderful book about her reading  from her home bookshelves for a year.

That’s what I say I’ll do, and I do read from my shelves, but book-buying is where my materialism comes in.  And I recently made a very interesting discovery :   I can get very cheap used books if I settle for “good” instead of “very good” or “like new” condition.

At our house it is very like a ’60s sitcom when books arrive in the mail on weekends.  I wish I were like Samantha in “Bewitched” and could twitch my nose and make the books disappear.   Today my husband intercepted four packages.  “Is it your birthday?”

I have very good reasons for buying these books, as he  shortly learned.  I had to replace my copy of A Dance to the Music of Time, Second Movement, because it fell apart while I was addictively rereading  Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant.

I swore I couldn’t get it at the library.

And so now I am done buying books.  For the year.

We’ll see!

6 thoughts on “Pamela Hansford Johnson’s The Philistines & The Book-Buying Habits of Bloggers

  1. Loved this post. We book bloggers do have odd habits don’t we? Hours spent writing for no obvious reward.
    I do like the sound of that Pamela Hansford Johnson I read my first ever book by her last year.
    Also delighted by your obvious love for Anthony Powell, having spent 2014 reading the entire dance there are moments when I rather miss Nick Jenkins and co.


    • I think blogging is one of the better things to come out of the internet. It is fascinating to see how many people love to read.

      Oh, I very much like Johnson, and think she is underrated. It’s very good that Bello has reissued her books. I had never even heard of The Philistines.

      I do remember your Anthony Powell read! A Dance to the Music of Time is one of my favorites, and I did mean to join in last year. I’m a year late…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In neolithic times, human beings were hunter-gatherers. I believe that the male was the hunter and the female was the gatherer. She kept her family going by seeking whatever was edible and bringing it back to the cave. Today our frustrated gatherer instincts find their outlet by acquiring books.


  3. I think the blogging for me is a combination of things – a love of books, a wish to share that love, a wish to create *something* in response to the reading even if it’s only a little post. I *do* get a lot of pleasure out of it or I wouldn’t do it. I’m fascinated by the sound of this Johnson novel, and I agree the crush is a somewhat unacknowledged part of the female experience – look forward to what you have to say about this.

    As for the acquisitiveness – what can I do except plead guilty? Fortunately, I can have books sent to my work (a school) during term time and smuggle them home in a large handbag…… 😉


    • Blogging is so enjoyable! And it is a way to find out about books we’d never hear about. English bloggers have introduced me to books available only in the UK, and this is profitable for Abebooks:)

      We’re supporting books by acquiring them.:).

      Liked by 1 person

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