Another town, a new bookshop … and now I need more bookshelves …

If you have ever visited Cornwall, or if you ever plan on visiting Cornwall, there are a lot of places you might want to see. St Michael’s Mount, The Eden Project, The Minack Theatre, Jamaica Inn, Tintagel, Lanhydrock House, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, The Tate St Ives, The National Seal Sanctuary….

But, unless you have a particular interest in mining history you probably wouldn’t choose to visit Redruth. It’s a grey, inland, impoverished former mining town. But you really, really should go there.

Why? To visit The Redruth Bookshop. I read a while back that it was Cornwall’s largest secondhand bookshop and realised I needed to investigate. Last week I did. It looked unremarkable from outside, but when we went in we discovered that it went, back and back and back, and that it was packed full of wonderful books. I could have brought home a car full, but I was restrained and settled for these:

Recent paperback fiction was at the front of the shop. I picked up Devil by the Sea by Nina Bawden to add to my Virago bookcase, plus the first three novels by Salley Vickers. I knew as soon as I discovered her not so long ago that I would want to read and own all of her work so it was lovely to find three lined up. And older editions with lovely covers. 

And as I went further back in the shop I found the older books. 

Back at the beginning of the year everyone seemed to be reading Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. The library had a copy, but I was in the middle of an ordering ban, and virtuously stuck too it. And maybe virtue was rewarded, because I found a very pretty edition from the 1930s. 

I have an unread copy of Peyton Place tucked away. I remembered Verity writing warmly about it not so long ago, and mentioning that Grace Metalious had written a sequel that was now out of print. So when I spotted a copy of that sequel I had to pick it up. 

And then there was a trio of books by Virago authors that Virago has not seen fit to reissue. The Bridge by Pamela Frankau (in a very pretty 1950s dust jacket), Alone We Embark by Maura Laverty (a wartime economy edition) and Potterism by Rose MacCaulay (a tragi- farcical tract!). All look wonderful. 

I recognised the name Norman Collins, because Penguin reissued his book London Belongs To Me last year. So I picked up Bond Street Story, and the opening paragraphs painted such a wonderful picture of the rush hour in London (I love Cornwall, but sometimes I miss my old London life) that I really couldn’t put it down again. 

Now it probably won’t come as news that I love Margery Sharp‘s writing. So imagine my delight at finding THREE of her books to add to my collection – The Foolish Gentlewoman, Britannia Mews and Cluny Brown. 

Now here is where I was really restrained. There were six books by Monica Dickens that I hadn’t come across before, but I made myself select just one. The Heart of London was the winner and looks absolutely wonderful. 

And finally there was an elderly copy of An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. It was only 50p, so of course it came home. It missed the photocall because my mother pounced on it. She says that it is lovely – and I hope to get it back one day! 

That’s it! And I shall be looking for an excuse to visit Redruth again very soon…

28 responses

    • Thank you – I try to be sensible, but when I find lovely out of print books I struggle. They may never turn up again, and I maybe I’ll miss a real gem. And so I tell myself that I’m supporting local book dealers!

    • My mother is loving it but she’s a slow reader so it may be a while before I get my chance. Luckily I have Harriet Reisen’s biography of Louisa May Alcott on hand to help fill the gap. And those other books … and a library pile…

    • It is wonderful Kathy. One of those shops that looks small, but when you go in you find more rooms and more books.

    • I do come across a lot of older used books. I think maybe its because so manypeople retire here, and eventually things get cleared out.

    • I was disappointed at first when there was just the one green book, but when I found the hardback fiction I was overwhelmed!

    • I’d much rather rescue an older book than buy a shiny new one.

      I’d been going to read Daddy Long-Legson the Daily Lit, which you pointed me towards, when I’d finished my current Dickens, but I’m pleased to have the illustrations as well as the story now.

  1. Wow – what a wonderful haul of books! I am very envious of the sequel to Peyton Place, and also of the Maura Laverty as I have just finished another of her Viragos. Sometimes it is a shame that Virago didn’t reprint more of each author! Daddy long legs is fun, so I hope you enjoy that. Lucky you.

    • Maybe it’s good though that Virago gave us a wider range of authors and left us with a few books to chase. Imagine my delight at spotting so many familiar names!

  2. I am sooo envious, both of the shop and your haul of books! Probably a good job I am hundreds of miles away or I would do my bank balance even more damage than I manage already and since I have officially run out of shelf space at home, it’s probably best that I stay out of reach of temptation!

    • It wasn’t too expensive a trip – I averaged £2.50 a book. And I cancelled a planned jaunt to Waterstones (nearest branch 40 miles from home)which made me feel really virtuous!

    • If you’re in the area do go to Falmouth as well Jackie. Two very good second hand bookshops, a couple of very good charity shops, plus the waterfront and the Maritime Museum that I’m sure your boys would love.

  3. Lucky, lucky you! I wouldn’t be able to resist a book titled The Heart of London either and the Norman Collins can only be fantastic. I’ve been thinking of ordering a copy of London Belongs to Me for the past couple of weeks, LOVE the way he paints a picture.

    • I hadn’t heard of Norman Collins until last years reissue – and now I’m thankful for it because there were so many possible books that I had to restrict myself to authors I knew.

  4. That bookstore sounds like a little slice of Heaven!!! Love that stack of gems you found..that’s part of the fun-looking for great titles!!!

  5. Wow… I had absolutely no idea that Redruth (I was born there as a matter of fact) was harbouring a bookshop like that. Somewhere new to go next time I’m down there.

    • Nor did I until recently, it was pure luck that I read about it somewhere. It has a huge stock – I didn’t look much beyond fiction but there looked to be a good stock of Cornish books too. There rreally was too much to take in on one visit.

      I was a Bolitho baby, but my fiance was born in Redruth too!

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