I’ve written here before about my love for small, quirky independent bookshops. Such as Mr’s B’s Emporium in Bath, a lovely book-smelling heaven where staff know their onions (or even their literature) and where you can be assured of a quiet, friendly atmosphere to browse for books.
I thought this kind of bookish idyll could only be found in rural towns. Or that this was a mode of buying books especially made for World Heritage Cities such as Bath. Surely the Notting Hill kind of bookshops where Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant have their romantic rendezvous only existed in Richard Curtis-land? But no, my theories of what can and cannot be found here in the big city of London are once again proven wrong.
I first saw my new place of employment last May (here I have to declare my vested interest in this blog post). It was then only a painted shell of a shop. Husband and I drove past it at the end of one of our hectic and stressful flat-hunting jaunts up to town. We’d just seen a series of very expensive, very small, very dark apartments and were both secretly thinking that the Big Move to London would never materialise, unless we’d win the roll-over on the Lottery (which we never play), when I suddenly shouted, ‘Look, a book shop!’ I turned to Husband and yelled louder, ‘A NEW book shop!’
Husband slammed the breaks on and pulled in outside the red façade. Luckily there was no-one behind us on England’s Lane, NW3, because I doubt he had time to check his mirror. ‘Christ,’ he muttered under his breath. I gave him a murderous look and ran out of the car. And there indeed, a most wonderful thing to me was taking shape. I couldn’t look inside as the windows were wrapped up but there was a notice saying the bookshop would open soon. You may think me a little batty, but I felt like a child who’d just been given a ticket to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory.
Now a few months later, England’s Lane Books still smells new. Perhaps its the constantly updated stock of titles – the smell of new books – rather than the freshness of the space itself, but when I enter the shop I get a sense of novelty. Browsing the shelves I notice titles old and new. There’s the Booker long-listed novels, such as ‘The Slap‘ by Christopher Tsiolkas which I had to get, in spite – or possibly because – of its opening paragraph. There are beautiful non-fiction books on anything you might ever think of wanting to know more about. I was fascinated by a book on how different cities chart their transport systems, ‘Transit Maps of the World’ by Mark Ovenden (This could be an excellent gift idea for my fellow blogger Tristram – I believe his birthday is only a month away) as well as the many art and fashion titles, all beautifully bound and, ah, so tempting.
Further down the shop there are Deluxe editions of classics from Wuthering Heights to the Jeeves and Wooster –series to The New York Trigoly by Paul Auster. These are all beautiful books, and excellent present ideas for those of one’s friends and family who have everything. And then there’s my very favourite section – crime.
England’s Lane Books also stocks a huge selection of children’s books; holds a regular, twice-weekly children’s story time, and even has a place for resting your weary feet, young or old.
But before I descend into complete PR lingo, I’ll just mention that the great Ruth Rendell will be gracing the shop with her marvellous presence soon. Tickets are on sale now, here. (Sorry for the unashamed advertising, but I hope you agree it’s for a good cause).