Astley, Thea. Reaching Tin River (New York: Penguin, 1990) 223 p.
Belle works as a library assistant in Brisbane, Australia, having given up teaching. “I had switched careers before I had really got started on one, abandoning teaching for something so solipsistic, so passive, it takes my breath away.” (p. 92).
Meanwhile I have enough to cope with: a head librarian who summons female myrmidons with a whistle and snap of the fingers, who knows the Dewey system by heart—every category—and refuses to listen to any proposed changes. A natural Luddite, computers are killing him. He furbishes his home with public gallery rejects, collects pigeon droppings and leaves them outside the building for mulch and carts the stuff off in sackfuls....
“He’s good for laughs,” the underlings excuse him in the common room at morning tea break.
It should be laughable, maybe even lovable. I am beginning to worry about the validity of lovableness.
I am working in archives with a permanent smell of dust in my nostrils, that delicate fragrance of old paper and bindings, and I have permanently swollen olfactory glands. But life is better. It’s better. And as two years roll by I pass my qualifying examinations, receive a small promotion and make a circle of friends, all librarians, who have a hair-shirt quality of endurance and a gentleness the public service has never been able to damp out. (p. 73-74).
Working in the archives Belle finds photographs and journals of a man from the 1800s and becomes obsessed with him. She marries the library section head, later deputy librarian, Seb.