My most precious book is not my oldest; it is not my most beautiful; nor is it my most expensive; it cannot be found amongst my youthful school prizes, nor in my handful of autographed history volumes. No, it is a slightly scruffy, slightly 'foxed', pale blue cloth-on-board book that my mother bought for herself in 1959.
It is called The Threshold, translated from the German Vor Tag, written by a mysterious author called Dorothea Rutherford, and published by Rupert Hart-Davis in 1954. It is a memoir of childhood in Estonia at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The subject of the memoir is a small girl, Liesbeth, who gives us a view of her world that is so tender, innocent and full of wonder, yet is never mawkish. Through her eyes we see her coming to terms with the world of adults, with love, religion, family relationships and celebrations, even death. It is a society before two World Wars and Communist control.
I feel as if I am the only person who ever read this book, since no-one I speak to ever seems to have heard of it. Occasionally it appears for sale on some used-book website valued at around £15, so not exactly sought after. Googling permutations of author, title and publisher has unearthed a mention in a list of periodical contributions at Wilkes University, Philadelphia, and as a topic of discussion at Oceanside Library, Nassau County, New York,
http://www.oceansidelibrary.com/ , in September 2007 when it was compared to Wunderkind by Carson McCullers, amongst others. Oh, how I would love to discuss this book with another smitten reader! Are you out there somewhere?