My first relationship cost me something very precious; about half of my Terry Pratchett collection.
We shared a love of the same authors but all the book-swapping in the world was not enough to keep us together. As the faster reader, I normally loaned him my books when I had finished them, meaning that a several much-loved texts arrayed his bedroom walls by the time we broke up.
Young love is not merely blind (and incredibly nauseating to have to sit behind on the bus) but also pretty stupid when it comes to thinking through that inevitable first-ever break-up. Alas, I was so unschooled in the ways of love that I didn’t realise it is vitally important that you begin smuggling your books out at the first sign that “together forever” is probably not going to make it past the end of the month, and that your plans for several tattoos, backpacking Central America and being a writer are not compatible with their lifestyle choices of golfing, motoring a 4-wheel-drive around the city centre and actually getting a proper job.
Once the break-up drama was over and the dust had finally settled, I realised that his absence from my life was going to leave a massive gaping hole – right in the middle of my bookshelf. And I had no idea how to deal with it. I was a student, so replacing books I had already read was an extravagance I couldn’t condone (along with proper food and toilet paper – one of the perks of working for uni nightclub was that you were allowed take home the half-emptied giant rolls of toilet paper they replaced nightly, something valued hugely by me and the approximately ninety million students I shared a flat with). Our mutual friends were already completely over the drama, so asking them to get the books would have been bad form. His house had a guard dog which, far from being unfriendly, would bark delightedly at me and then lick me to death, so burglary was not an option.
I could have done the traditional asking for them back, but I wasn’t sure how to bring it up. (And also, they weren’t talking to me, and my first relationship was sadly pre-email, Facebook, Twitter and mobile phone, and all the other normal methods of contacting people who are ignoring you without you actually having to speak to them.) I probably should have just asked his mother, who would not only have removed all traces of me from the house but probably fumigated the rooms afterwards and written, “and stay gone” in big letters on the bag. But in the end I just gave up on them, and got around to replacing them over the next few years while I was in another relationship.
And then my second big relationship ended, costing me not only my rebuilt library of Terry Pratchett’s but also my Stephen King’s and several prize possessions – a copy of Michael Ende’s Neverending Story (with the original illustrations and changes of ink colour) and all of the original Game of Thrones series including a signed hardcover. And on it goes. The obvious answer is not to lend any books to your partner but when you are in the throes of passion, it’s near-impossible not to share your enthusiasm for the books you love with the person you love.
I estimate there are about 5 copies of Small Gods out there with my name on them, and the same amount of Good Omens, the book that I use as a litmus-test for prospective dates for whether we will get on or not. It was, in fact the first ever present that I bought my current partner. And how is that going? Well, he loved the book. And we’re getting married next year, so he’s clearly pretty fond of me too. Hopefully these are the final copies of these books I will purchase.
But if not, at least I am back on speaking terms with some of the others so I can finally pick up about 4 copies of each, should I want to.
So, after the break-up, how do you get the books back?