While in Cornwall this past week, I read two books and bought five, plus I talked Tim into buying another three that I kinda want to read too (all our purchases are pictured above). I don’t really do book bans, and any vague notions of one that I do have are always suspended while on holiday, but five books in a week feels like a lot. Then again, we found some lovely bookshops, and I always want to support great bookshops.
In Falmouth I read The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, which is a perfect summery seaside read. I wasn’t intending to buy any books, as I knew I would at our next stop in Fowey, but then we found the Falmouth Bookseller, which is an excellent bookshop. Really well curated, with some unusual staff picks as well as the ones you might expect in a Cornish seaside town (so much Poldark everywhere!). We bought half our holiday purchases there and it was unquestionably the best bookshop we found. But as an experience it is kinda trumped by Beerwolf Books (above) – a pub-cum-bookshop, also in Falmouth, with lots of reading nooks, tea and coffee, table football, table tennis and CAMRA-approved ale selection. Plus did I mention an actual bookshop within the pub?! It looks really great and covers a good range of subjects for a small space, with decent graphic-novel and popular-science sections. The stock felt suspiciously similar to the book section of Fopp, with a lot of modern classics and art books, but I’ve always quite liked the book range at Fopp so that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We spent hours there and happily would again.
In Fowey I read The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier, which turned out to be the perfect choice. I have a 1st edition that I picked up a few years ago on the cheap because it’s slightly damaged. I should really be looking after it carefully but it was a massive bestseller in the 1950s so it’s not especially rare and I do believe in buying books to actually read them. Which means I gave myself licence to carry this around with me on clifftop walks and to the beach, particularly when we went on a day-long expedition to explore the land around Menabilly, where Du Maurier lived for 25 years and on which Manderley (the house in Rebecca) is based. You can’t actually see Menabilly itself, which is a private home hidden from the road and the sea, unless you make friends with its owners, the Rashleighs. But you can walk through Menabilly Farm and down to Polridmouth Cove (the site of Rebecca’s cottage) and on round the coast to Polkerris, where Du Maurier spent her final years. When I’ve sorted through the photos from this walk I’ll post again about this.
Fowey has lots of literary connections (again, I’ll post more about this once I’ve been through the photos) but arguably the most famous – and certainly the one that made me want to go there in the first place – is Daphne du Maurier. Sadly, the Daphne du Maurier Literary Centre has recently closed and the memorabilia it housed is in temporary storage until the town museum can make space for it (I was told this will be no earlier than September). The literary centre has now become a tourist shop called Enjoy! Fowey (a helpful clue as to how to pronounce Fowey, there) but it does still stock an excellent selection of Du Maurier books, as does the well-labelled bookshop opposite, Bookends of Fowey.
Bookends is a new and secondhand bookshop and has a handful of Du Maurier 1st editions in a glass case behind the counter, as well as plenty of reprints of well-known and unusual Du Maurier books from over the years, such as a memoir by her sister Angela. I was pleased to see that both shops stock Du Maurier’s idiosyncratic travel guide Vanishing Cornwall, which I picked up secondhand on holiday years ago and did not think was still in print.
While we got to know Fowey and its neighbouring villages I also started reading Letters From Menabilly: Portrait of a Friendship by Daphne du Maurier and Oriel Malet. The two authors met in the 1950s and Malet describes in detail her first visit to Menabilly and what the surrounding area was like at that time. It doesn’t sound like it has changed a great deal. It gave me a thrill to read Du Maurier’s letters to her friend describing a walk to the Gribben Head or somewhere else that Tim and I had just visited. I’ve been such a fangirl this week! And unapologetically so.