Prague is a beautiful old town full of winding streets and, once your away from the tourist tat, full of lovely little shops. One such shop is a bookshop, made like book shops are supposed to be. Achingly high ceilings stacked with books, chairs littered in hidden corners, tempting browsers to stop and to stay. If it’d been a Czech bookshop I doubt we would have lingered as long, alluring as the dusty, warm smell of worn pages is, the idea of battling through the enigma that is the Czech alphabet would have no doubt put us off.
Prague thrives on English tourism, and while I’m not sure the lads abroad and stag parties ever make it to this side of Charles Bridge, there’s clearly enough of a demand for books in my mother tongue. Two floors of demand no less, and it was, curled up on a wooden step in the basement that my boyfriend found me. Lost among titles I longed to read. One such title I was particularly enjoying was The Shipping News by Annie Proux and when my fella refused to let me buy the book , citing our already overloaded suitcases as his reason (which as he was doing most of the carrying, seemed legit) I could do nothing more than copy the title into my notes and hope I remembered to buy it at a later date.
That later date came in November, when I was once again flirting between bookshelves, this time in Blackwells, Oxford. There on display staring me in the face, four months since the book had first registered with me was the book I had longed for in Prague. The purchase was a no brainer. And a week or so later I began. It took me a while, I’ll admit, adjusting to the style and finding my way with the rhythm of the text. But I was hooked. Proulx creates such a strong sense of place, of atmosphere that I could imagine myself there, windswept and ocean battered alongside the characters. Somehow was enthralled: gripped by these characters who were like no one I’d known before.
Beginning a book in December is a brave thing, and sadly the cacophony of carols, mince pies and Buble – not to mention speed reading Skipping Christmas before Bookclub all distracted me from completing the novel in the timely fashion it deserved. Dragging it out though ensured I always had it to look forward, and time after time I relished the prospect of ten minutes caught between chores to savour the ongoings up on the stormy land. Distraction clearly followed me into the new year as it’s taken until now for me to publish.
I loved The Shipping News. With all it’s quirks and idiosyncrasies it was a clever, masterfully written novel which id not expected. I intend to read further Proulx and hope that I’ll enjoy devouring them as much as I have this one.