Yesterday I received a surprise postcard from the seaside. Eastbourne, to be more precise and Camilla’s Bookshop was where it was bought. I knew my mother-in-law needed to buy some books, but she hadn’t mentioned she would be popping into Camilla’s to pick them up. She was definitely a satisfied customer and came away with what she wanted especially after being let loose on a secret stash of more books hidden behind a closed door (I was told that ladders were involved in retrieving the title in question)!
If you haven’t already read my original post about Camilla’s and seen the mini documentary about the shop, called Half a Million Books, you can see both here.
Mr Fiction Habit and I visited “The Sunshine Coast” in January and while the 2 smaller Fiction Habits were at the panto with Granny (Robin Hood – is was apparently excellent) we happened upon Camilla’s Bookshop.
It was the piles of Penguin orange and green classics shelved outside that lured me in. The assortment at the front didn’t nearly prepare me for the stockpile inside – it has to be seen to be believed really. Check out the short film made by a student documentary maker.
When we first went into the shop I thought they were having some sort of clear out, but it soon became evident that the piles of books were a permanent feature. The vertiginous stacks were particularly precarious near the door. There was a shopper with her small children browsing near the front of the shop telling them not to touch anything for fear of them being squashed by a tumbling heap! I wondered how on earth anyone was supposed to find anything let alone how the owners knew where anything was. Having now watched the film I realise that there really is a method in what looks like chaos. The staff come from either bookselling or library stock, so they can probably lay their hands on any title quite easily. Unfortunately we weren’t able to spend very long in the shop – I would have loved to peruse the shelves all afternoon, but we had to get back.
I found the place absolutely fascinating and wondered about who would own such a shop. It was heartening to see so many browsers in the place, especially at a time when new and second-hand books are easy and generally cheap to buy online and the number of e-readers is on the rise. It is sadly pointed out in the film that Camilla’s is the last of 5 second-hand bookshops that were in the town at one time.
The owners and booksellers are clearly book people, this isn’t just a job to them. Camilla mentions that she finds members of the public much more fascinating than some of her more famous customers because they show a passion for their particular area of bookish interest. The best description of the sentimentality I sometimes feel about books was made by one of the booksellers; an old book has been a silent witness to 150 or 200 years of history. The words are still there as they were when it was first printed.
…and that is the beauty of a book you love, whether old or new, it is a constant. While the world frets away around us, days and weeks rush by, we get sucked into the treadmill that is modern life, the words in our favourite books will be the same on the 100th reading as they were on the 1st.
We need more Camilla’s Bookshops in our world.