Home > The Bookshop on the Corner

The Bookshop on the Corner
Author: Jenny Colgan


 

A Message to Readers


There is no dedication in this book because the entire book is dedicated to you: the reader. To all readers.

Because this book is about reading and books, and how these things can change your life, always, I would argue, for the better. It’s also about what it feels like to move and start over (something I’ve done quite a lot in my life), and the effect that where we choose to live has on how we feel; and can falling in love in real life be like falling in love in stories, and also there’s some stuff about cheese, because I have just moved somewhere they make lots of cheese and I can’t stop eating it. And a dog called Parsley.

But it has a lot about books in it, because Nina Redmond, the heroine, dreams of opening a bookshop.

So here are some useful tips about where you read, because I want you to be as comfortable as possible. If I have missed out a really obvious one, or you do something completely different, please drop me a line via Facebook or jennycolgan on Twitter, because I am of the old-fashioned conviction that reading is a pleasure to be carefully guarded at all times, and I truly hope you find this book as pleasing to read as I did to write, wherever you do so.

Bath

9:45 P.M. is my chosen wind-down time for a bath, which drives my husband crazy, as he has to sort the thermostat out if it’s not the correct temperature (only very slightly cooler than the surface of the sun), and keep the water constantly topped up. It is a true luxury. Except I don’t like bath oil. It’s disgusting, isn’t it? It just coats everything. Anyway, not the point. Book in bath. Paperbacks are ideal, obviously, and the worst that can happen is you have to dry it out on the radiator (all my children’s handed-down Harry Potters are utterly warped), but I read a lot on my e-reader and I will let you into a secret: I turn the pages with my nose. You may not have been blessed with a magnificent Scots-Italian Peter Capaldi nose like me, but with a bit of practice you should soon find it’s perfectly possible to keep one of your hands in the water and turn the pages at the same time. If there is anyone in your house with a habit of bursting into the bathroom, make sure you lock the door, as in my experience people do find the sight slightly hilarious.

Alternatively, my friend Sez uses both hands but wraps her e-reader in a plastic bag. Sensible.

Bed

The only problem with bed reading is its brevity: two to three pages and you’re out like a light. If it’s been a particularly long day, you may swim in and out a bit before you actually doze off, and then you’ll pick up the book the next evening thinking, was there a pink unicorn running through an examination hall while I chased after it in my pajamas in this book? and I will have to say to you, no. There is nothing like that in this book. You were nodding off and I’m afraid you have to go back a couple of pages. However, I have helpfully given all the characters very different names from one another. There’s nothing worse than reading about a Cathy and a Katie late at night, and I don’t want to make anyone’s life harder than it needs to be.

Sunbed

On vacation on a sunbed is supposed to be perfect for reading, and in fact in my life I have measured out my sunburn in terms of how brilliant the books I was reading at the time were. Where to hold the book is a problem, though. Hold it up and your arm gets tired and you get a big book-shaped tan mark (which I believe in some circles is quite the cool signifier). Read into the sun and you squint in an unattractive fashion. Sitting cross-legged with it on the towel is not the most flattering of poses (if you’re me; I droop somewhat). Lie on your front and you sweat on to it and the plastic bits of the sunbed cut into you. The best thing if you can find one is one of those terrific old-lady sunbeds with the fabric protecting bits on them that you can pull over your head. Yes, they look totally stupid. But hey, you’re reading in comfort and nobody else is, so you still win.

Walking down the street

It used to be quite acceptable to walk down the street carrying a book in front of your nose. People would smile indulgently and step out of your way, because they knew what it was like to need to read something so desperately (I once saw a girl hanging on a strap on the London tube dislocate her wrist trying to change at Bank and finish A Suitable Boy at the same time).

However, these days everyone holds their stupid smartphone in front of them the entire time in case somebody likes a dog picture on Facebook and they miss it by two seconds, and therefore simply walking down the street has become far more of an obstacle course even without holding up a paperback. Proceed with caution.

Book group

If you’re reading this for a book group, I can only apologize and assume it’s 2:15 A.M. the night before the evening. Something about being forced to read a book, I find, makes you feel like you’re still at school, and hey, if we wanted to do homework, we’d go and take that evening class we keep promising we’ll do when we get the time. Mostly if you have to read in a rush it’s in case someone says, “Well, what did you think of that ending?” and you have to nod along, desperately hoping it wasn’t a trick ending where they reversed everything (I will tell you, this has happened to me). Therefore, let me reassure you: there is no twist ending in this book. Except I would say that, wouldn’t I, if there actually was.

Hammock

Once upon a time when I was young, I had a lovely boyfriend who bought me a hammock and hooked it up on my tiny and highly perilous roof terrace, where I spent many happy hours just rocking and reading, eating Quavers and reflecting on my lovely handsome boyfriend.

Then (reader), I married him and we had a bunch of children and a dog and moved somewhere where it rains all the time, and I think the hammock is in storage. This, my friends, is apparently what’s known as “happy ever after.”

Stolen book time

Ah, the best time. I often turn up ten minutes early to pick the children up from swimming, or steal a quarter of an hour after I’ve done the supermarket shop, and sit in the car and grab some time back from the world for me and my book. We deserve it, and it is all the sweeter.

Commuting

Commuting reading is great, if you can get the hang of it. Because commuting is so regimented—just watch the glazed looks of people who trace that infinitely complicated, beautiful dance through stations every day—your brain instantly complies with the order to remove you from all this for exactly the right amount of time. Put your phone away; all that fussy crud can wait till you get into work. This is your reward for having to commute.

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