April’s book group ‘How to Stop Time’ Matt Haig

As part of the bookshop we have set up a book group. This runs as both an online facebook group and also meets in person. We held our first monthly meetings in the last week of April, (we have an afternoon and evening meeting to accommodate all). For more information on the book group and to join either visit our Facebook page Lost in Books book group or send us an email to hello@lost-in-books.co.uk. The book chosen was the one reviewed below, Matt Haig’s ‘How to Stop Time’.

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This was an interesting read and our book group had mixed views about it. I, for one, loved the book, although preferred ‘The Humans’, one of Matt Haig’s earlier novels. The protagonist in the book is Tom Hazard, a seemingly ordinary 41 year old living in London. However, we soon learn he is suffering from a rare condition that makes him age very slowly and he is actually well over 400 years old. He is protected by a society of similar people run by the slightly sinister Hendrich, and has to move on every decade or so to stop people realising the truth about him. The society’s main rule is that he mustn’t fall in love.

The book takes us back to his beginnings in France and then England with his mother in 1599, a time of witch hunts and superstition. We follow his story moving between present day and the past in short chapters. This is where I believe the difference comes with liking the novel or not. It works well when it is read relatively quickly, and does not seem to work as well when the book is read slowly over a period of weeks, dipping in and out. The changes in time are not too difficult to cope with and the cast of characters is relatively small with quite a few famous figures dotted throughout. This was apparently done on purpose by Matt Haig as he thought, well why not! If his character is going to live throughout history why not have him meet famous figures. We learn more of Shakespeare first hand. For me, this gave an implausibility to the book which did trip me up occasionally although the descriptions are excellent. The ending of the book has a showdown and seems to be written in a slightly different style to the rest of the book. A few people felt this was the best bit, others confused by the jump in pace/style. There were mixed views on the character of Tom. Some really didn’t get on with him finding him too melancholy and introspective. Having read Matt Haig’s ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’, I believe there is quite a bit of the author reflected in Tom. He is at a point in his long life where he is reflecting on what to do next and feeling there must be more.

The love element is interesting as it seems almost naive the way he was once deeply in love centuries ago and now begins to fall for a new woman. Implausibility again as he has lived so long and learnt so much about the human character, and yet seems almost like a school boy with a crush now.

The prose is undeniably good with some beautiful turns of phrase which can almost be lost in the short chapter pace of the book. They didn’t stand out enough to sway the people who disliked the book. Ranking it scored from a 3 out of 10 to an 8 out of 10. Our book group gave it an average of 5.8 overall. The best recommendation is to read it over a weekend and enjoy the story, the historical descriptions and the concept and not get too bogged down in Tom’s character or the implausibility of parts of it.

Interview by Fairlight Publishers on the opening of our shop

We were interviewed by Fairlight Publishers for their new blog site back in January. Since the interview we have opened our ‘shop within a shop’ at a permanent location within the new emporium that is ‘Choughs’. This is the interview published here:

Do you remember when you were first setting up your bookshop? Was it all a haze of to-do-lists and business planning? Was it a thrilling adventure, filled with book catalogues and second-hand treasures? For sisters Amanda and Rebecca it seems like a mix of both. While preparing for the launch of their new bookshop, Lost in Books, they’ve given us an exciting preview of what’s in store for their local community. Amanda and Rebecca live in a small town of Lostwithiel, which is known as the antique capital of Cornwall. In the past they have had various careers including picture researcher, accountant, toy seller, and café owner. After growing up in Cornwall in their parent’s hotel on the cliff, Amanda and Rebecca felt the strong pull of the sea and, after having children of their own, returned to the South West.

Both sisters have an inherent love of reading and all things book-related. Rebecca has just finished an MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth University and Amanda is part-way through her masters in Authorial Illustration. Lostwithiel has an active cultural community but doesn’t have a bookshop of its own. Seeing the gap in the market, these book lovers began their plan. Since both Amanda and Rebecca have experience in running shops, they’ll be focusing on creating a unique place in their community that will promote the love and value of reading.

As brand-new booksellers, they have many ideas on how to make their business distinctive. Their collaboration with the local community will assist in setting up the bookshop up as a creative hub. In addition to selling both new and second-hand books, Amanda and Rebecca hope to run literary workshops. They even plan to organise a book group for the entire town that will extend onto Facebook. Lost in Books will be the place to visit in the South East of Cornwall for all things literary. The sisters will also have a social enterprise element, offering donated books for resale with proceeds going to a charity.

Amanda and Rebecca are going to get started with a pop-up shop to explore their ideas at the beginning of March and are hoping to have a permanent location by June. However, as anyone who has tried to set-up a business knows, unexpected hurdles are unavoidable.

Like most indie booksellers, Amanda and Rebecca are worried about keeping the momentum of the new shop going, especially during the winter months when, as they say: ‘tumbleweed blows down the main street’. But the sisters are more excited than nervous: Amanda is absolutely thrilled about keeping their own book collection, while Rebecca can’t wait to meet new people, discuss books and write as an aspiring author herself. All of their energy at the moment is focused on creating the right atmosphere for their shop. Hoping to move away from the ‘fusty, musty image of a second-hand bookshop’, the women want to create a warm and welcoming space where they can help people develop and foster their love of reading.

Lost in Books will stock new and good quality second-hand books with subjects ranging from nature and wildlife, through to novels, craft and children’s. Cornish authors and travel books will have a place too, with Amanda and Rebecca offering a new book ordering service as an alternative to the big online retailers.