I love a good bookshop. Especially a beautiful little independent one, nothing can quite compare to the love you feel when you walk in to a bookshop. In particular when you know that it has been built from the ground up on nothing but love and passion – a massive chain is brilliant for sheer volume but a little independent place just has a completely different emotional feeling when you step over the threshold. I apologise in advance for the sheer length of this post but I just can’t seem to stop myself from typing – I just want to share every detail of this experience because it was just so perfect and I seriously just cannot stop myself talking about this bookish Narnia like place I have stumbled upon (when looking for Lidl, incidentally).
There are a couple of favourite bookshops that I have in the city centre, but I am always on the look out for more and over this summer I have discovered a couple – none really amazed me – until last week. Last week I discovered an absolute gem of independent bookshops. Kett’s Books. This little book shop is a beautiful place; I could very easily have spent hours in it on that first day (and maxed out my overdraft). I just love it, I love the story behind it and yes, it’s happened, I’ve fallen in love with a bookshop.
Kett’s Books is a community bookshop; for anyone who doesn’t know, it just means that any profit goes back in to the community. It’s run by the community, for the community in the town of Wymondham, just south of Norwich city centre. I’m so happy I found it because it stands for so many values I believe in. I suggest anyone who lives in the Norwich/Norfolk area seriously check it out because it’s a really amazing place!
Now, on to my (lengthy) story…
My first experience in this shop I can comfortably call my most joyous shopping experience of my life. I hate shopping, truth be known, unless it involves books. I walked out high – I’m not sure if it was the book fumes or just a combination of the warm-fuzzies, a beautiful book in my possession and possibly one of the best literary conversations I’ve had in a long time. Whatever it was, I was bouncing off walls and being told to stay away from caffeine because I was positively hyperactive after this shopping experience.
When you first walk in to a bookshop like this, or maybe it’s just me, you’re afraid to speak. I sometimes feel that if I do it’ll break the ‘magic’ that surrounds the place, or that I’m in some sort of daydream and to speak will break me out of this amazing place. Or maybe it’s just I always feel like I’ve got to behave like I’m in a library. After a quick look around I was in love, I wanted to buy everything – there was such a beautiful collection of middle-grade books, and young adult, local authors and a few new hardbacks I’m pining after and then I spotted the absolutely beautiful Virago Designer edition of Rebecca tucked away in the classics section. I knew it had to be mine. I had lusted after it for so long, putting it off longer and longer – when I was finally going to buy it a few months ago my local Waterstone’s had sold their copy so I just decided it wasn’t meant to be mine and got on with life! But seeing it here, in this beautiful little, independent bookshop… ah. I finally felt like we had been reunited, like some Austen romance.
Picking the book up I turned to my grandmother and just exploded with the happiness. I’m not ashamed to say I nearly cried with the knowledge I didn’t have the money for it, I reeled in my excitement and I put it down; telling my grandmother that we had to come back next week (loan day!) and that this book was going to be mine because it is simply the most wonderful book in existence and I absolutely needed the pretty edition.
Then I fell a little bit more in love.
I was gushing about Rebecca. My grandmother has never read it and I was just falling over my feet telling her how wonderful it is when (the absolutely lovely) woman who runs the shop interjected and we had a conversation that will stick with me. It’s been a long while since I had a passionate discussion in person, opposed to through an online community, about a book. Doing what I do at university I’m not really surrounded by people who appreciate literature as much as I do – so when we started talking about this book, this book, that just means so much to me and holds so many memories and has such a dear place in my heart I just fell so much more in love with the shop. Having someone you can just stand there and gush about literature with makes me so happy. Then we spoke a little more about comparisons between Rebecca and Jane Eyre (another firm favourite), and the Hitchcock movie and it was just the singly most wonderful bookshop experience I ever had.
I was heartbroken as I knew I couldn’t buy the book, and I promised I’d be back next week to buy it and then the bookseller (the lovelylovely woman) pretty much made my life when she said I could have it at a lower price. I could have sobbed over her. It sounds really cheap and cheesy but… I really could have. So I bought this book and I’ve promised to return next week (where I’m already planning a shopping list and will probably spend over £100 on books. She’ll never regret that £3 she knocked off that book!)
Experiences like this is why I love independent bookshops, and why I’m going to be spending a lot of money in this bookshop because nothing can compare to the feeling you get when someone just gets you like that. That is the ultimate customer service, the ultimate selling point. Having someone that is passionate about what they’re doing is the most important thing when trying to sell something – not that the woman in the shop had to do any selling, I was sold as soon as I walked in. Just being able to express my love of literature and not be shot down, like I so frequently am, is exciting for me. You don’t get this personal feel when you go in to a high street store. You don’t get the interaction or the personal touch or the deep conversations about your favourite book; you don’t get cute little messages on Facebook (which I did. It made me blush) or acknowledged on Twitter if you message them and it’s quite sad, really, that in an age of technology we’re much more isolated and out of touch.
So I am in love with a bookshop and I urge anyone who is in the Norfolk area – be it permanently or just on holiday – to check out this beautiful little place; the bookshop primarily but the town itself is beautiful. I’m already telling all of my friends that it’s a must-visit and I, personally, cannot wait until next Thursday when I plan to return and spend a small fortune! Though I may try and get down first thing on Monday, but it might be pushing it a bit as I have a lecture at 1 and it’s an hour bus there and back, plus the 30min bus to uni and on top of that there are freshers events to be around for and GAH. I really want to go Monday. I can’t lie. Someone give me a better reason than ‘university’ not to?