My boss said that she read this book years ago as part of her course on rare books at UCL. While it was quite old she thought it still had good things to say about preservation and storage so we added it to the reference books in our reading room and I thought I'd read it. I have to say that even rarebook librarianship has changed quite dramatically in the past 25 years. There was a great deal of this book that was simply not how things are done, from talking about buying books, to the way books are catalogued, postal enquires, typewriters in the reading room, microfiche and of course no mention of online catalogues or digitised resources! He also under emphasised the importance of subject cataloguing as part of the importance of rare book librarianship, though he thought that this might be changing.

However, there were still several areas that seemed to hold true. I think the chapters on exhibitions were the most relevant still. I found that a lot of the practices that we do at King's were outlined in this chapter, not just exhibitions, but also lectures and exhibition catalogues and events to raise publicity for the collections. This was by far the most interesting part, while the chapters on conservation and preservation were also relevant they didn't have much new information. The chapter on training of rare books librarians was also quite interesting, Cave thought they should be trained seperately to normal librarians and given different areas of study and would benefit from working in the rare books trade. (Though this was largely due to the large interaction with the rare books trade that he saw taking up much of the rare books librarian's time.)

The writing style was quite vicious in places. He wasn't afraid of scorning what he considered to be "amaturish" booksellers who he saw as merely being a nuscience, rather than providing for a specalist market. It was an odd little book, it was very good in places, but also totally irrelevant in others. Still probably a good one to have read for future career aspirations.
I have quite mixed feelings about this book. I did enjoy reading it and will likely read more Russians but found it a bit odd and inconsistent to say the least. It struck me as strange that it was such a long book divided up into such short chapters. I found this to be quite jumpy in places and interrupted the flow of reading, it made it much harder to get engrossed in places where the point of view kept changing so quickly. I however, did really enjoy the characterisation and the ability to see into the character's mind and motivation. I found this to be much more personal and insightful than English literature from this period (later coming in Wells and Hardy). To me this was definitely a book about characters, and what they did. I think when they were doing interesting things I enjoyed the book, but when they were being a bit dull (for instance farming or hunting) it just felt like it was dragging and I found myself skimming until the scene changed. It was definitely a book where not much happened. I think I could have done with a little bit more of a plot, or some driving force beyond simply Anna's adultery and Levin's search for a wife/happiness. Which while I love such things in Kerouac here they just all seemed to go on a bit too long. I feel parts were definitely stronger than others, perhaps it was a victim of the years of revision that Tolstoy put it through.

I found the end to be most disappointing, Anna's madness felt a little forced. I would have liked to have seen more of a gradual fall into madness, but I suppose at the time, an adulterous woman having given up her son was all that needed to be said to explain her doom and total unhappiness. After that I wanted more of a reaction to her fate, but everyone seemed to carry on as normal. Levin's sudden religious conversion also felt odd and forced. Though I did really enjoy the parts at the end on the train. Actually I quite liked all the parts on the train, in particular Anna's meeting of Vronsky on the platform was totally surreal and dreamlike and lovely.

As I said a mixed reaction, parts I really liked, parts I didn't. I think I shall definitely have to read some more Russians though. I did like all the political discussions. It was interesting to see how easy and natural communism seemed. I liked the casual discussion on the rights of women, and their education. But could have done without the long discourses on farming!
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