Sunday, 16 February 2014

Armchair Adventures

Aren't bookshops the greatest? Just walking over the threshold is to step into a shop full of possibility and adventure. Waterstones is very good but for real bibliophiles you cannot beat Hatchards  in Piccadilly - I have never actually reached the top floor of their shop it is so big! 

My favourite shop is called Kim's bookshop it is in Arundel (there are other branches in nearby Chichester and Worthing). I told the young student (he looks like an aspiring writer) that his shop was a travel agent rather than a bookshop as they sold adventures on every shelf! He thought that might be a good selling campaign!  I like Kim's it because it sells mostly second hand books; there are no promotions or big names, simply categories and books covering every possible nook and cranny, the penguin classics are on the stairs and require negotiations if other customers wish to pass the narrow creaky stairs. I have to bend down to reach my beloved Scott F Fitzgerald, but I have most of his books already! 

Here all books have equality, without the promotions or trends, it feels quieter and peaceful somehow and reminds me of my childhood Saturday mornings spent at my local library where the middle aged librarians maintained a strict silence and were feared,  even by adult customers. There is a quiet reserved atmosphere in the shop, conversations are hushed so that the only sounds are the rustle of pages turning. 

Perhaps Kim's brings back fond childhood memories, there is the feint smell of aged paper, musty, yet comforting, where old  childhood friends sit on shelves: Ballet shoes, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden. I would escape into this safe world as a child, where all problems were resolved with happy endings, good always overcame evil, and people were generally kind and those who weren't were obviously bad, like the White Witch in Narnia. 

I spy set of ladybird books, with their beautiful watercolour depictions of idyllic family life in the 1950's, and I a reminded of the sweat and toil as my 5 year old self tried to make sense of the big markings on the page to read out loud to my teacher.  They are criticised now,  for re-enforcing middle class values and stereotyping! So different from the schoolbooks my children read, where the principle characters were asian and had very strange names - Biff and Chip! I wonder if our education system has begun to over think things. 

I digress, I have been suffering from a rather nasty bug this week, so have been camped out on the sofa, wrapped in a patchwork quilt, the dog resting at my feet while I have been whisked away to Australia by the talented writer, Liane Morriaty and her book The Husband's secret. I picked this up second-hand - what a gem it is! It isn't often that I find myself transported within a few pages,  when that happens I tend to read everything the writer has written. (What Alice forgot is making its way to me through the postal system as I write).  The lives of three women are interweaved so cleverly, the secret does seem to be something that would be difficult to resolve; however, Liane cleverly weaves her tale, unfolding a few surprises; she does deliver a very satisfactory ending. Well worth a read - I won't say too much because I don't want to spoil it for you. 

As I have been very good, I am feeling a little brighter and will hopefully be fit enough to leave these four walls and visit Arundel today: Kim's bookshop beckons alongside the lovely teashop Lulamae's. Happy Sunday! 

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