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The Saga of the Chair, Part Two

Reading Books Inside Books

  • April 03, 2017
  • Blog


Do you do this? I was reading Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day by Winifred Watson, when the main character mentioned characters created by Ethel M. Dell. Curious, I looked her up and yes, she existed. She was a romance writer from 1911 to 1939. So I tracked down one of her books and read it. And now when I reread that line spoken by Miss Pettigrew, I feel an extra satisfaction: I know exactly what she’s referring to.

It was almost a throwaway line. Miss Pettigrew didn’t explain who the author was, she assumed the other characters knew—and the reader as well. Yet it made no difference if I knew or not, the context given was explanation enough. I was just curious.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this. In Mary Poppins in the Park, author P. L. Travers created a story from The Silver Fairy Book. I read every “color” fairy book compiled by Andrew Lang before conceding defeat—the author had made up the book. The most frustrating part of it was the story she wove—it sounded like it should have been real, and I wanted to read it.

So, do you do this? Do you hunt down a book mentioned in a novel? I have no explanation as to the pleasure I get in the hunt and subsequent reading, but it would be nice to know I’m not alone.


  • Raimey Gallant • April 3, 2017 at 1:09 am

    I enjoyed reading Disclaimer recently, and it has a fictional book inside its pages. 🙂

    • J. M. Levinton • April 3, 2017 at 2:37 am

      I’m assuming you found out it was fictional because you looked it up? 🙂

  • Marie MacBryde • April 3, 2017 at 10:31 am

    I always want to look up a referenced book or author, but rarely do (because of too many other distractions). Must be the detective instinct inside you that makes you follow through.

    • J. M. Levinton • April 3, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      I do love a good hunt (on paper). I think it’s also easier now with our cell phones and computers nearby. But you’re right, it can take away from the other stuff we need to do.

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