It’s a chance for Hereward Corbett from the YellowLighted Bookshops to catch up with old friends
The customers are back! Some of them very nervously, in masks and gloves, timidly asking if they can actually touch the books, and some of them strolling in past the hand sanitiser and our assorted social distancing signs as if nothing has changed. We’ve actually had two people who refused to use it, saying, and I quote, “You don’t believe all that nonsense do you?” We didn’t let them in.
We have screens at the till, a new wifi credit card machine, masks, and a fairly strict ‘ two customers at a time’ policy. It feels OK, but every time a customer comes in there is a slightly different interaction, a recalibration of what feels OK for them and what
I don’t like the idea of ‘must read’ books, but… Ali writes like an angel and has the most distinctive voice writing today, which she brings to bear in this final part of her ‘Seasonal Quartet’. Sacha and Robert are part of a family on the brink of overwhelming change, living on borrowed time, knowing it, but with little idea what to do about it…
Hamish Hamilton, £16.99 feels OK for us. It’s interesting, but quite wearing.
On the other hand, we get the pleasure of seeing how people are, catching up, and seeing how people have been.
Most have been bored. Mrs Peabody, who can remember life before the Second World War (and should not have been out and about, but you wouldn’t argue with her), described it as being “A bit like the Blitz, but quieter. I’ve read all me damn books, nothing on the television and I’m too old to do anything in the garden. And you couldn’t get a bloody thing in the shops – nowhere was open. Nightmare.”
Olive, who is very quiet, and saves up her money to buy books on
Whether Conn would see himself as a commentator on world affairs or not I’m not sure, but this thrilling retelling of the wars between the Greeks and the Persians does rather resonate. But it’s a brilliant read, and his description of the Battle of Thermopylae is simply a stunning – and inspiring – piece of writing.
Michael Joseph, £20 embroidery and knitting, timidly brings some of her petit point work to show me. She has created a set of miniature landscapes, views of Tetbury. They are amazing. “Well, I had to do something or I’d have gone mad. Mr Barker wasn’t going to keep me entertained now, was he?”.
By the time that Mr Daycourt shows us his model of the Sphinx, I am beginning to wonder if maybe we should devote more space to books on crafting.
But people have been buying books… Some in ones or twos, but some in great armfuls, everyone enjoying the opportunity to explore this new world we live in. And it is absolutely marvellous to see them again.
Kate is one of the great unsung novelists of the past 20 years, and I don’t really understand why. Her latest novel is based on the true story of Elizabeth Macarthur and her 1788 journey from rural Devon, which felt tiny, to the unimaginable scale of life in New South Wales, where she has to re-evaluate everything in order to survive. Richly retold, this is a very human story that lives with you long after the final page.