LONDON – One of my favourite things to do is find bookshops and wander through them, while perusing new and interesting reads. I’m a big fan of Daunt books, which has a few branches around London, and I recently stumbled upon Persephone books, located in Lambs Conduits Street, while out and about shopping in the neighbourhood of Bloomsbury.
Persephone Books has differentiated itself from other bookshops. It reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly women) writers and has 102 books in its collection.
Most of the books you haven’t heard of. The only one that was vaguely familiar to me was “Miss Pettigew lives for a day” by Winifred Watson. And the only reason I know about this book is because it has been made into a film staring Amy Adams! It’s a cute film so you should definitely check it out.
So I think for most people, purchasing a book from Persephone is a risk as you’re relying on a few scant reviews and not word of mouth.
The shop itself is small in size. As you open the door, and hear the strong ring of the doorbell, you step inside and realise that half of the shop space is actually taken up by what seems to be their ‘office’ and storage area – there were brown boxes of books everywhere. The actual books on display only fill up a room the size of your lounge.
I went on a Saturday and so it was busy. The crowd is bookish and academic but I imagine they are loyal to the shop as they find the concept charming and a nice bit of reprieve from the hustle of London. As the space is tight, I didn’t stay too long. I like a bit of privacy when I’m in a bookshop. There’s none at Persephone’s – no alcove’s to hide in…
But the charm of this small and peculiar bookshop had me quickly purchasing the book “The world that was ours” by Hilda Bernstein. This book is part of the Persephone Classics collection (there are ten in total) and it appealed to me as it’s set in South Africa and a reviewer said it ‘reads like a thriller page after page…’
I’ll let you know how I get on with the book. I’m still making my way through “How green was my valley” by Richard Llewellyn. It’s taken me a while as my attention span has shortened – I spend too much time online reading short snippets of information…Anyway, let me know if you recommend any bookshops in London. I’d love to hear about them.
LONDON – I stumbled upon Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury a few months ago when I worked in the area. It’s a quiet road that doesn’t take too much traffic and is pedestrian friendly. It’s a mini high street that doesn’t mimic the well known ones you’ll find in London because it’s more original and diverse. If you walked down a high street in most cities in England, you’ll find that they all look the same. The major retailers are all there. That sort of shopping experience has its purposes, but it’s also a bit bland. I think this is why I’m looking for more independent shops and retailers. It’s for this reason that I like Lambs Conduit Street. It doesn’t have any major retailers and prides itself on having a British feel to it.
I went on a Saturday but quite late, around 5:30pm. Almost all the shops were closed. I spoke to a sales lady and she said that was typical of boutique shops in the area. So if you plan to go to Lamb’s Conduit Street, don’t leave it till the last minute on a Saturday like I did.
Having said that, I did manage to peak into two shops. The first is The French House.They specialise in well-crafted furniture and design products for the home and garden. Many of their suppliers are artisans or family-run companies.
There are a lot of nice things to buy…but as it’s not pay day, I was just browsing.
Okay, now the other thing that you need to know about Lambs Conduit Street, is that it’s a mini Mecca for men’s clothing shops. The one that I popped into was called Oliver Spencer. They actually have two shops on the street. I spoke to the sales guy inside and he said that they specialise in men’s clothes, which typically seem to be a cross between the English lad look and something more preppy, but they are now also delving into women’s clothes. To be honest, there were only a handful of things for women, a skirt, some blouses and a very cute blazer (I sort of collect them). But still, if you wanted to shop for a special guy, I would definitely recommend Oliver Spencer.
According to the owner, also named Oliver Spencer, the clothing is practical luxury, with a rugged feel. They try to make clothing that is “seen and not heard”.
Lots of nice stuff here. I can’t wait to head back to Lambs Conduit. I particularly want to go to Persephone books. Looks like an original bookshop. Until then, keep following.