Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

These are a few of my favourite things …

… with apologies to Julie Andrews :)

Right, so much heavy-duty stuff – wars, ethnic cleansing, occupation. A light-hand is needed to balance things.

Several weeks ago a most delightful thing happened. A book — the sequel of one of my favourite childhood books – landed right in my mailbox after an almost twenty year search.

That childhood favourite is the utterly delightful Masha by the wonderful story-teller Mara Kay. Its a great story set in tsarst Russia about a girl who attends the Smolny Institute, a boarding school for girls, and her adventures there.

This splendid book was at my local library, but I couldn’t locate the sequel, The Youngest Lady in Waiting. I searched far and wide – the requisite web-searches, putting the call out on noticeboards, registering with Amazon and E-Bay and renewing the Amazon wish list call-out I had several times and upping the price I was willing to pay.


Problem was, no matter how much you were willing to pay, it was simply not to be found. A real rarity.

But one day, a catch. An email from Amazon that a private seller had responded. A sharp breath wondering whether my long and much anticipated search was finally over. First edition, hardback. Immaculate copy. Substantial sum paid.

When it arrived I was electric. Finally, it was in my hands!

Prior to receiving it I had re-read the prequel. So now I was ready to find out what happened to Masha.

And the reading of it was magic, or magick in a nod to dear Curt ;)

After finishing it I admired it sitting on one of my bookcases for awhile, wrapped protectively in tissue paper. But I also got the distinct sensation that it was not meant to stay in my hands. It should be read rather than stay on my bookshelf indefinitely.

So I parted with it for the same sum, gaining immensely from the opportunity to have read it.

The buyer, a young mother in the UK, snapped it up and was delighted to find it. She read both books to her girls she told me in an email exchange and it was a nice thing to know.

Next time … my other favourite novel of all time, in a very different genre … Arthur C. Clarke’s sublime The City and the Stars. Also read when I was but twelve. And the accompanying story of how I wrote to this author of 2001: A Space Odyssey (by a serendipidous coincidence, I had befriended a girl from another school on the bus whose aunt happened to be his secretary, what a fortuitous coincidence!) and he wrote back. I still have the letter.

8 comments on “These are a few of my favourite things …

  1. nrh1911
    26 October, 2006

    Hi. I have been trying to fina a copy of ‘Masha’ for a few years. i read and re-read the copy from my local library as a child; my Mum read it and enjoyed it too. Last week, I went to visit my own daughter, who is studying at the university in StPetersburg, based – would you believe – at Smolni! So I was able to walk the corridors walked by Masha, to my enormous pleasure an almost disbelief!
    I just searched again for the book online, and came up with your posting – posted the very day we flew to Russia. It all seems such a weird set of coincidences. I’d also forgotten about the sequel, which I believe I have also read. Not sure I can afford it, but if your contact over here haS finished with them, I’d love to try …
    Yours, Nicola Hill

  2. peoplesgeography
    26 October, 2006

    Nicola, that’s amazing, thanks so much for sharing that. I practically got goosebumps when you mentioned walking the corridors of Smolni, what a great opportunity and so much history, lucky you! I’m happy to email you off-blog to discuss further, but also perhaps do a catalogue search at city or state libraries if you would just like to re-live the magic rather than own a copy – after I located them I discovered the State Library here had a copy. Its just so rare!! Thanks for coming by, great to read from a fellow-Masha fan :) cheers, Ann

  3. janet
    9 April, 2007

    Ann, you are so very lucky. I have been searching for both books since a young girl. I dont think they were ever for sale in Australia! There were always mutiple copies in the local libraries when I was young, always with a waiting list to read them. I recently was so very lucky to purchase a copy of Masha on ebay, but like you, have been unable to locate a copy of the Youngest Lady in Waiting. I would love Macmillan to re-print it.
    You are also lucky to have a library nearby with a copy. None of the libraries in my city have a copy anymore.
    Congratulations, and well done for passing the novel on. Cheers, Janet

  4. peoplesgeography
    10 April, 2007

    Janet, appreciate your visit. Are you from QLD? I did a general IP look up but only a very general one to see what part of Oz you were from. If you are, the good news is that The National Library of Australia has The Youngest Lady. Also register at Amazon’s facility that allows private owners to sell to you. It took me a long while, but I eventually got one. We should start a petition to have it re-published! Both Nicola and Melissa, who bought TYLIW from me were interested in forming some kind of club, loosely, centred around this, with an online presence that would allow more fans to find us and that would allow our strength in numbers to bring about a re-publication. Email me (address on About page) if you are interested.

  5. Sarah Stoner
    22 October, 2007


    I managed to track down a copy of Youngest Lady in Waiting after trawling the Internet for THREE years!!
    I am now selling it on eBay – first edition, great condition – and the sale ends next week – if anyone is interested!

  6. Helen
    13 March, 2009

    I first read The Youngest Lady In Waiting when I was 11. We had it in our school library. I later discovered Masha. I read them several times while at school and was shocked when last year I thought I’d like to read it again and discovered the price. No way could I ever afford it. The head offices of our local library own a copy but will not loan it out. I was lucky enough to borrow Masha last year but now that is also not available for loan. I keep searching charity shops and hopefully I’ll be able to read it again one day. Helen

  7. Ann
    19 March, 2009

    Appreciate the comment and please do keep looking Helen. It seems like there are a number of us around the world who might be able to press for re-publication of this classic.

  8. Tracey
    17 July, 2009

    I picked up a copy of lady in waiting at a charity shop for 25cents and had also seen 1 in another shop the month b4.Did not know what it was until i listed on ebay and got $1000 for it as well as the english woman begging me to photocopy her a copy and send it over for $100. I still have a photo copy for myself with the colour copy jacket.Just have not got around to reading.Think i should read Masha 1st!

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This entry was posted on 13 October, 2006 by in Books.

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"