A Bookie's Dream

How’s this for a bookie’s dream come true?  Heading to work on the subway this morning, I got a seat and pulled out my London Review of Books to read.  In my usual LRB fashion I first took in the personals, because they’re so eccentric ("Man seeking woman to read The Hobbit with…."), next I read the London Review Bookshop ad, always a two-page spread highlighting books for sale relating to a particular theme (this time fashion and dressing up), plus "some other recommended titles."  Among the other titles was Elsie & Mairi Go to War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front, by Diane Atkinson.  

"Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm met in 1912 at a Bournemouth motorcycle club. When war broke out, they immediately volunteered for service on the Western Front….The Great War gave these two young women the chance to have ‘the time of their lives,’ allowing them a degree of fame, independence and responsibility that would have been inconceivable in peacetime."  

I thought how much I would love to read that book —  last night I finished the first ever English translation of Agnes Humbert’s deeply shattering yet inspiring World War II memoir, Resistance, now in paperback, (click here for LJ’s book review, here for review of the audio book), and wanted to read another book about women putting their lives on the line in war. I was in that state when I needed my next book fast, to keep my reading spirits up. Too bad Elsie and Mairi could only be summoned from across the ocean.

I arrived at work and went to my cubicle, stepped over my crates, shelves, and boxes of galleys, and saw a messengered book envelope on my chair, from Pegasus books.  I opened it and there were two galley copies of Elsie & Mairi Go to War, to be published by Pegasus in the states on June 15th!  

I’m in clover!  Elsie, Mairi, and Margaret will Go to War Work on the subway together tomorrow! 

Margaret Heilbrun About Margaret Heilbrun

Margaret Heilbrun is a former Senior Editor, Library Journal Book Review.


  1. J. Brunk says:

    Pure serendipity! I love reading about this on a gloomy not-yet-spring day. It’s evidence that little miracles do happen.

  2. David Keymer says:

    This is a nice entry. I love that you love books that much because I do too. Serendipity occurred for me a month ago when I was reading Robin D. G. Kelley’s fine biography of jazz giant Thelonious Monk (Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original) and I received a request to review Sam Stephenson’s photo and prose essay, The Jazz Loft Project, a collage of photographs and audiotapes shot and taped by master photographer and jazzophile W. Eugene Smith between 1957-65 in his W. 28th St. loft in NYC. It was magic! I bought my first jazz record sixty years ago and still am passionate about the music.

  3. Mary Bisbee-Beek says:

    Ahhh, this is marvelous not only do you have a great book to look forward to I now know that you also enjoy the Personals as much as I do! Thanks for this entry, Margaret — your postings are always the best! I don’t always comment, who has the time? But it’s like receiving a little note from a friend when you write about books!

  4. Stewart says:

    No one reads on the subway any more. It’s my new pet peeve. You hardly see a newspaper and if they’re reading a book it’s a gilt-edged volume that always turns out to be the Bible.

  5. Joanie says:

    A lovely story. Some things are right in the world. I wish you continued good fortune!

  6. Moira says:

    Mary Bisbee-Beek took the words right out of my mouth. Margaret’s recommendations always (except perhaps the annual baseball reading blog!) send me running to the library and/or bookstore–often before the book is available.Some of my favorite books ever have come from her column–everyone, get a copy of The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett–and I often share her blog as well as her recommendations. Do keep them coming, Ms. Heilbrun!