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A Tale of Amaryllis

A Story for Independent Bookshop Week…
 
Once upon a time, there was a little girl called… let’s just call her A. She had hair as black as a raven’s wing, eyes as green as fresh grass and lips as red as wild strawberries. In fact, she hasn’t really changed at all. Anyway she usually ran wild and free accompanied by her beloved wolfhound but one day her father took her on a trip to the nearby Spa Town, home to gentrification, blue rinses and regency terraces. The house to which they headed was indistinguishable from its neighbours on the outside but as she passed through the front door she entered a world of enchantment. A narrow hallway, with a not unpleasant musty dusty smell, was lined from floor to ceiling with books of every size, shape and hue. As she progressed further into the depths, the house opened before her like a telescope, rooms completely furnished with books, opening out of each other. Eventually she reached the back room: here surrounded by more and more books was a bar behind which stood a man talking to several people who were lounging on stools in front of the bar and partaking of glasses of some ruby liquid whilst soft music wafted around them. Her father explained to her that it was a second hand bookshop and that the man at the bar was the owner. All she knew was that it was some kind of heaven and she wanted to live there for ever…
 
She grew up, as you do, married, had children. She still read when she had time but life proved increasingly hard despite her joy in her children. One particularly difficult day, she found herself walking across a nearby common and chanced upon a small bookshop overlooking the green. Entering, she was immediately soothed by the familiar bookish smell and the mellow atmosphere. Then, serendipity or a fairy godmother lent a hand! A notice caught her eye advertising a vacancy for a Saturday girl! She applied and was successful and started the next week. She discovered something she was good at: she could talk about books and all her shyness and self-doubt fell away. She discovered empathetic novelists such as Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Pym: she was happy and life improved.
 
Her confidence grew so that she felt she was ready to venture out into the wider world. She felt so confident that she thought she would work at the giant bookshop in the very centre of the big town. But she quickly realised that big was not at all better… She had exchanged intimacy for anonymity: she had to wear an ugly black t-shirt; she was constantly subject to rotas and bells and plans and directives that ensured that every shop in the country looked exactly like the other; she spent days shifting toppling towers of books from one table to the next. She discovered that the higher management were recruited from other big companies such as supermarkets and treated books as they would a tin of soup, more concerned with the packaging, recommending books based on the cover. She learned that it was cooler to stand behind the computer than to shelve and handle the books, that how many loyalty card subscribers you signed up was more important than engaging a customer in the joys of reading the classics. The final straw: she came last in the loyalty card league which was posted on the staffroom wall for all to see…
 
Humiliated and demoralised, she left! But her fairy godmother had not deserted her. She heard of new independent bookshop due to open in the west of the town. She applied, was called for interview where all she had to do was talk about her favourite books and, after an anxious wait, learned she had been successful. She went on to spend her days immersed in books: choosing, shelving, arranging, recommending, dusting and best of all, talking with other like-minded people over coffee and cake and so she lived happily ever after. Which just goes to show that a prince isn’t necessary to a love story – however if any are passing…
 
This week, I have been reading for our three book groups next week and it has been such a joy! We are discussing The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate for Classics, Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith for Crime and Amongst Women by John McGahern for a very special birthday general book group.

About Amaryllis

 

Amaryllis is our bookshop blogger.

 

Her pen name is taken from Alice Thomas Ellis’ Other Side of the Fire, which is unfortunately and scandalously out of print. One of the funniest bits in the book is the bodice-ripper that one of the characters is writing and the female - who slays the men with one toss of her raven locks and one glance from her fiery green eyes as she strides among the glens, faithful wolfhound by her side - is Amaryllis! And the name just seemed to suit so here we are.

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