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Reflections on The Reading Party

Updated: May 30

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by bookseller turned podcaster Max Moorehouse to chat to him about The Reading Party for his new podcast A Room of Your Own. Max is now a private library curator, helping clients to build their dream libraries, and he was intrigued the concept of The Reading Party. We talked about the idea of the retreat as a temporal rather than physical space where guests can carve out some time and lose themselves in a book.


I don't remember a time in my life when there weren't books. People ask me where my love of reading came from and I'm sure a lot of it is down to the fact I was a rather shy only child.


As soon as I could read, I was spending most of my spare time with my head in a book. Sitting down with a book and a cup of tea is still one of my greatest pleasures in life but it's something I find increasingly difficult. Running my own business means there is always something to do and I often feel guilty about spending time reading when I know there are jobs to be done. Even worse, I think, is the constant presence of my phone. I can't ignore the ping of a text or email just in case it's a potential booking or a guest with a question.


The Reading Party was born out of this sense of frustration and a desire to create space and time for fellow booklovers to read away from everyday distractions. I borrowed the basic concept from a history reading party I attended when I was at university. Although that was an academic exercise designed to help students revise for their finals, it's an idea that's stayed with me.


I hope that by allowing guests to remove themselves from their usual environment and the demands it places on them, they will be able to indulge their passion for reading and recharge their batteries. There will be opportunties to explore the area and talk to the other guests about all things book related but if someone wants to spend the whole time reading, that's fine by me. It's exactly what I'd want to do if I had the opportunity.



Books and Bookshops - some recommendations

Reading can foster a strong sense of place and I'm sure my desire to live in Cornwall came from the romantic ideas I'd picked up in books over the years. I'm thinking particularly of Susan Cooper's Over Sea and Under Stone which I read as a child and later, the novels of Daphne Du Maurier.


Whether you're planning on attending one of the Reading Parties or would just like to visit Cornwall on the page, here are some of my favourite novels:


  • Rebecca - I think this is Daphne Du Maurier’s masterpiece, a dark tale about a timid young woman haunted by the ghost of her husband’s first wife.

  • The Owl’s House by Crosbie Garstin is part family saga, part old-fashioned adventure set in West Cornwall. Garstin was something of an adventurer himself, disappearing in a mysterious boating accident.

  • Zennor in Darkness - Helen Dunmore’s first novel explored the impact of the First World War on the small community of Zennor and its inhabitants including D.H. Lawrence and his German wife Frieda.

  • The Feast by Margaret Kennedy is a fairly recent discovery. On the surface it’s a seaside murder mystery set in a fictionalised St Ives but it’s also an allegorical examination of society in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

  • Novelist Patrick Gale lives near Land’s End and many of his novels are set in Cornwall. Notes from an Exhibition is a beautifully-observed novel about art, family and mental illness.


And for any booklovers who do make it this far west, you'll find a great selecion of bookshops in

Penzance.

  • The Edge of The World Bookshop - Penzance’s award-winning independent bookshop

  • Barton Books - a thoughtful selection of new and secondhand books with a focus on art . and the natural world.

  • Women in Word - a hidden gem run by The Hypatia Trust celebrating the work of female authors.

  • Moonlight Books - a small but well-stocked secondhand bookshop tucked away on The Arcade Steps.

  • The Last Word - tucked away at the back of the antique shop at the top of Market Jew Street, there's always a great selection of Penguins, Persephones and other vintage treasures.


If you’re travelling further afield I also highly recommend The Bookshop in Helston which is a relatively new addition to the West Cornwall book scene. The Falmouth Bookseller is a firm favourite and now has a cafe, Above The Bookshop, where you can browse and enjoy a cuppa. If, like me, you enjoy the thrill of unearthing treasure in a secondhand bookshop, then the National Trust bookshops at Godolphin and Trelissick are also well worth a visit.


You can find out more about A Room of Your Own by visiting the website here and you can listen to me chatting to Max about all things reading related from the 30th of May.



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