Monday 11 December 2017

Finding sanctuary in Battle

Life's been a bit busy recently, so I've a raft of bookshop visits to share with you and an even bigger pile of books to read, but the news of a newly opened bookshop was too good an opportunity for me to miss.

Throw in the national Saturday Sanctuary campaign run by Books Are My Bag and the official opening of said bookshop occurring on the same day – just an hour from where I live – and it was pretty much inevitable I'd be rearranging my priorities once again. We'll gloss over the fact I couldn't visit in time to actually see the ribbon being cut by the local MP, but my boyfriend didn't realise we missed the festivities proper so who am I to set him straight?

Even several hours after the ribbon cutting, Rother Books in Battle was still crammed with eager bookshoppers, so much so it took a long time for me to find the opportunity to photograph any bookshelves for fear of disturbing the browsers. It created a nice atmosphere and I'm sure is part of the reason the feeling of celebration had lasted so far into the day.

In the words of the bookseller, the bookshop is small, but to my eyes it's two well-stocked rooms behind beautiful period windows in an historic high street building. Were I to draw a sliding scale of bookshop sizes I'd put it at small to middling, but the window running along the length of the shop, combined with whitewashed walls and a spacious entrance meant even with a crowd it never felt cramped. I even noticed one young lad had found a corner to call his own, sat on the floor to the side of the history books – I couldn't see what he was reading but he looked engrossed.

Stock was welcomingly varied, with a mix of old favourites and unusual treats. Where smaller bookshops have to take care over the titles they hold I'm used to seeing interesting selections with books notable for both their absence and presence, here was the same and I was pleased to spot those inclusions and omissions. Importantly, Rother Books had taken the trouble to include my favourite book among its titles so even if the rest of the place had been a disaster (it wasn't) the bookshop would still win a big thumbs up from me.*

Our visit ended with a chat to the bookseller, during which (and before I introduced myself) I asked for advice for a Christmas gift – one of my nieces will soon be the proud owner of Robin Stevens' Arsenic for Tea – and for myself I picked up On the beach by Nevil Shute.

Rother Books is a lovely addition to Battle High Street, and near enough to my home that I look forward to being able to visit again and again – best of luck to this long-standing bookseller who's decided to go it alone.

Rother Books
59-60 High Street,
East Sussex,
TN33 0EN
Tel: 01424 834756

*It's my blog and I'll be biased if I want to.