The great thing about supporting local bookshops is that you discover hidden gems right on your doorstep. Yesterday I visited the smallest village bookstore in the UK as part of my ‘One Book a Month’ campaign.
Hayling Island Bookshop is just a few minutes’ drive along the coast from me but I’d never come across it before – a fact that I was kicking myself for yesterday as it may be compact and bijou, but it’s also one of the biggest Literary Event organisers in the South of England!
Check out the list of authors they have run signing events for:
• Sir David Attenborough
• Terry Pratchett
• Jacqueline Wilson
• Kate Mosse
• Derek Landy
• Anthony Horowitz
• Sir Patrick Moore
• Katherine Bassford
OK, the last name on the list is just wishful thinking. I sneaked my name on there as a sign of things to come (when I write my next books). For now, they are kindly stocking copies of Oh Sugar! Here’s the evidence:
You can just see Colin in the background on the right. He runs the shop with his wife Marie, who is a member of the Advisory Panel for the Independent Booksellers Forum. She and Colin regularly meet with other booksellers to share their thoughts on how to keep small bookshops alive and well in the UK. Hurrah – I couldn’t have picked a more fitting place for my second ‘One Book a Month’ purchase!
So… which book to buy? This was trickier than I thought. Hayling Island Bookshop is small but it stocks an impressive range of titles. In the end my book-detecting radar zoomed in on Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I love true stories and this one sounds heartbreaking but inspirational:
At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise – a promise of piecing together a life that lay shattered at her feet…
The Sunday Times said the book is ‘epic and moving’ and the Scotsman said, ‘It’s not very manly, the topic of weeping while reading… Wild pretty much obliterated me.’
Duly warned, I have my tissues at the ready…
Hmm… I have mixed feelings about The Crane Wife. I absolutely loved Patrick’s Chaos Walking Trilogy so I had high hopes for this book. It started magically with George discovering an injured great white crane in his back garden one moonlit night. He saves the crane and the next day he meets a strange lady called Kumiko who he starts to date. Up to this point, the writing is beautiful and serene. But George has a daughter (Amanda) and the second the book switches to telling her story, the tone changes and the magic disappears. Dammit!
So I found myself torn in two. The book was quirky and beautiful in places. But other sections felt clumpy and plain weird – like the Japanese fairy tale interspersed throughout the story, which involved lots of clouds and erupting volcanoes. I didn’t have a clue what was going on and I found myself skipping these pages so that I could get back to George again. Possibly I was being a bit thick (it happens) but I found it all quite bewildering.
In a nutshell: I love Patrick Ness’s books. But I only loved this one in certain places (ones that didn’t involve clouds, volcanoes and irritating women called Amanda).