Cotswold Life

BACK!

It’s a chance for Here­ward Cor­bett from the Yel­lowLighted Book­shops to catch up with old friends

- Entertainment · Arts · Hamish Hamilton · Tetbury · New South Wales · Hamish Hamilton · Olive · Thermopylae · Kate Grenville

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

Ali Smith

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

Conn Ig­gulden

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 Grenville

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.

Canongate, £16,99

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