It’s Valentine’s Day here in Paris and the weather couldn’t be more dreary as high winds and rain slash at the windows. I feel sorry for tourists who are seeking refuge from the rain while struggling to keep their umbrellas from turning inside out. As for me, I’m comfortably ensconced in my warm, cozy flat listening to classical music, drinking café crème and eating a toasted English muffin topped with a generous dollop of cherry jam.
Last night was a treat. I crossed town to the 5th arrondissement and went to the much-loved bookshop, Shakespeare and Co., to meet Margaret Drabble and listen to her read from her new book, The Pure Gold Baby.
I spent my adolescent and early adult years reading Margaret Drabble and Iris Murdoch. Their novels were on my mother’s bookshelf, and I read what my mother read. Margaret Drabble, like my mother, comes from Sheffield in the north of England.
Having a favourite, esteemed author sit just a few feet away from you is rather awe-inspiring. I stared at the delicate features of 74-year old Dame Drabble (she was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2008) and felt admiration for the prolific literary works she has produced over her lifetime. For those who don’t know, her sister, A.S. Byatt, is also a famous author and a Dame too. In 2008, The Times newspaper named her one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. I highly recommend Byatt’s novel, Possession, for which she won the Booker Prize.
Book-lovers should visit the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop. (photo above). It’s a snug, cozy place.
“Established in 1951 by George Whitman, this atmospheric book store is a must-see. Near Notre Dame cathedral and just across the Seine, this book store is the epic centre of Anglo-Saxon life in Paris. Packed on three floors you’ll find English books literally everywhere. Even the stove is supported by piles of old National Geographics. The whole place breathes the atmosphere of more than half a century of a legendary literary and cultural oasis of English language in the heart of Paris. The bookstore spreads on three levels and is crammed with books on almost any subject imaginable. The top floor still serves as a writers room and an open library to all visitors.”
Ms. Drabble signed my newly-purchased book and I left the shop feeling dead chuffed which means very pleased in the north of England.