Now the long summer days are here we like to get out of the city, to meet subscribers and get to know some of the many independent local bookshops which, in spite of difficult times, are still very much alive and kicking. On 11 June we’ll be in Suffolk at just such a shop, Harris & Harris in the pretty old wool town of Clare, to launch the summer issue and the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions, Adrian Bell’s Silver Ley (see p.13).
Set in Suffolk between the wars, Silver Ley is a sequel to Corduroy, in which Bell describes how, as a young man, he left his city life in Chelsea to apprentice himself to a Suffolk farmer. It’s been one of our most popular SFEs and is now available as a Slightly Foxed paperback. In Silver Ley Bell has graduated to a farm of his own. Agriculture briefly boomed after the First World War, but we, the readers, know that another war which will change everything is on the horizon. It’s a captivating, quietly observed picture of a vanished world.
On the subject of independent bookshops, there are some changes afoot at our own shop on Gloucester Road. We’ve been joined there by two new members of staff, both experienced booksellers but each with a different area of expertise: Ben Scott is now in charge of the second-hand and antiquarian section, and Charlotte Colwill is responsible for new books. Those of you who are able to visit the shop may be interested to know that we’ve extended our selection of new books, reorganized and added to the second-hand section in the basement and installed a comfortable sofa down there for browsing. As always, Charlotte and Ben are delighted to order or search out any book that takes your fancy, new or old.
As we mentioned in the last issue, Readers’ Day this year will be on Saturday 7 November at the Art Workers’ Guild in Bloomsbury. We love the Art Workers’ Guild with its atmosphere and associations, and it’s always a most convivial day, but as Jennie said when asking for your comments after last year’s event, we’re aware that even the most enjoyable of occasions can always be improved upon. Among your answers were pleas ‘not to tweak too much’ and not to ‘do too much to make the AWG resemble a function room at the Paddington Hilton’. No danger of that – but we’ll be doing some reorganizing which we think will significantly ease congestion. And, to many people’s relief, we’ll be starting slightly later, and allowing more time for mingling and chatting with contributors. This year’s speakers will include the novelists Justin Cartwright and Melissa Harrison, whose new novel At Hawthorn Time is just out; the legendary traveller Dervla Murphy in conversation with her publisher Barnaby Rogerson; the writer Ursula Buchan on her grandfather John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps; and Sarah Anderson, founder of the late lamented Travel Bookshop which featured in the film Notting Hill and author of a moving memoir, Halfway to Venus. Do get in touch now if you’re interested, as tickets go very quickly.
Meanwhile thank you, as ever, for your interest and support, and wherever you are this summer, we wish you happy reading. Have the steadying effects of a good book ever been more necessary?