Bluestocking Book Tour

This sort of constitutes spoilers for this post.

What a cultural weekend I’ve had, friends. I was up in London, and managed to do three-count-em-three cultural things. That includes seeing a brilliant exhibition of Tove Jansson’s paintings in Dulwich and going to the play adaptation of The Slaves of Solitude at Hampstead Theatre. The novel is absolutely brilliant, and I did enjoy the play a lot, but had to think of it as a separate entity. It didn’t get across the ogreishness of Mr Thwaites, or the dark humour of the novel. And it changed details that didn’t need changing. Maybe it’s just interior a novel, with too distinct a narrative voice, to translate properly to the stage?

But I didn’t really want to talk about them today – I was going to write a little bit about the Bluestocking Books bookshop tour that I went on. Lauren had kindly asked if I’d like to join them, and I wanted to spread the word a bit. There are quite a few different themed tours (see the link above) but Saturday’s tour was more broad – an introduction to different types of shops across London. I was hoping that my friend would be able to join me, but it didn’t work out – but I joined four other people who were being guided by Lauren.

I won’t write exactly which bookshops we went to on the tour, because part of the business model is Lauren’s expertise in the bookshops of London and a curated experience of them, and I’d be giving away her talents for free – but I’ll talk you through where we went in more general terms.

The first stop was a bookshop for ‘esoterica’ and spirituality and what I’d call the occult, but I suspect isn’t called that anymore. There was a Christian corner, and I rather dashed for that. To be honest, a lot of this makes me feel uncomfortable (I didn’t relish being around a tarot reading) but I was intrigued by some books on conspiracy theories – not least because ‘conspiracy theories’ was an unexpected bookcase to have in this context. Anyway, that was that, and we were on to the next…

The second was a tiny antiquarian bookshop with a charming, knowledgeable owner who specialised in modern first editions, maps, and classics (in the Greek/Latin sense). He airily said that some of the books were “only £30”, but the ones I picked up were a little too much for my wallet. But it was fascinating seeing the collection, including a copy of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out that had been owned by Vanessa Bell – and had her inscription. It was wildly more than I could afford, but it was a delight to see it.

The third shop was one of the popular Charing Cross Road shops, and there’s where I did all my buying – I got 6 books, though 4 of them were for Secret Santas. I shan’t say which, in case the recipients see the books! But two of them were for me – being numbers 22 and 23 of Project 24. Only one book left to buy for the rest of the year! I could hardly leave a bookshop tour empty handed, could I? I came away with an E.F. Benson novel and a book about E.M. Forster by Rose Macaulay (published by the Hogarth Press).

The fourth shop was a graphic novel shop that I have been to before – and if I weren’t in Project 24, I’d probably have taken a gamble on one of them. But it was great to have a flick through.

And the fifth and final shop was extremely glamorous – mostly selling enormous art and style books – the sort of thing I’d call a coffee table book if they wouldn’t have necessitated getting a new coffee table. The lady who showed us around was lovely, but I was always treasure a line she said with no irony at all: “I’ve been off champagne for a week and it’s been tough.” Same, friend, same.

All in all, it was an amazing tour – such a great range of bookshops, some of which were great for buying and some were more for the experience. Throughout, Lauren had interesting facts and stories to share, and was a witty, friendly, and enthusiastic tour guide. All of us really enjoyed it, and most of us bought at least one book – and it’s certainly opened my eyes to bookshops I didn’t know existed, despite going around those areas often. To take me to three bookshops I’d not visited before, out of five, is pretty impressive! I had such a fun morning – despite the inevitable London rain.

Lauren doesn’t run Saturday tours all that often, but if you’re available during a weekday (especially if you’re a tourist) then I think you’d love this. Keep an eye out for which tours are coming up!

 

10 thoughts on “Bluestocking Book Tour

  • November 19, 2017 at 9:28 pm
    Permalink

    What a fun weekend, Simon – and the tour sounds fabulous and right up my street (though I’m with you about prices). I’m very jealous of you seeing Bell’s Woolf too – turning slowly green… I’ll look forward to hearing about the Tove exhibition because I’m hoping to go in a few weeks!

    Reply
  • November 19, 2017 at 10:40 pm
    Permalink

    What a brilliant idea! I think we should arrange to meet up and go on one, Karen, although we’re v naughty at encouraging each other to acquire books, aren’t we …

    Reply
  • November 19, 2017 at 10:53 pm
    Permalink

    I was in London last summer and I think I went to 7 or 8 bookstores in less than a week, mostly near Charing Cross. A couple were chain bookstores, a couple of used bookstores, and at least one indie bookstores. I think I came home with something like eleven books. It’s a dangerous place! (Clearly, I gave up on Project 24.)

    Reply
    • November 19, 2017 at 10:57 pm
      Permalink

      Also I brought London Belongs to Me (as airplane and bedtime reading) which is over 700 pages. You know, in case there weren’t any books in London.

      Reply
  • November 20, 2017 at 3:19 am
    Permalink

    Rose Macauley on E M Forster: it doesn’t get much better than that! I envy you that one.

    Love to hear about the EF Benson novel also – once you’ve read it.

    Reply
  • November 21, 2017 at 12:49 pm
    Permalink

    Lovely!!! And you’ve reminded me that I really must see the Tove Jansson exhibition at Dulwich.

    Reply
  • November 21, 2017 at 9:51 pm
    Permalink

    If I ever am in London, I would take this tour in a heartbeat! Such fun and fascinating way for a book lover to tour London.

    Reply
  • November 22, 2017 at 1:30 am
    Permalink

    I must do this tour sounds brilliant. I took my only little literary trip to Doughty Street in Bloomsbury last week. I think there should be a blue plaque to mark the house the Prov Lady stayed in!

    Reply
  • November 22, 2017 at 2:13 pm
    Permalink

    Such a wonderful day out, Simon, and something to remember for my next trip. And thanks for the laugh this morning re: champagne….now tea would be another matter!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: