11 March 2013

You Will Be Missed, Nicholas Hoare

One of my favourite bookshops will close its doors on April 1.  Nicholas Hoare in Toronto has the sort of charm and atmosphere that exists at Hatchards on Piccadilly or Daunt Books on Marylebone's High Street.  The creaky wood floors and warm lamplight, the roaring fireplace on cold winter afternoons, all made me feel ridiculously excited and relaxed at the same time.  A well-worn sofa and two comfy armchairs face the crackling fire and there would often be customers lounging cosily, book in hand, as if time barely mattered.  The books were stocked face out which meant no craned neck to read titles, this also allowed your brain to absorb the beauty of any cover art instead of feeling claustrophobic amongst tightly packed shelves.  Quite often my husband would drop me off at the nearest intersection if the light was red so I could hot-foot it with my eye on the familiar signpost hanging above the door.  The end of every visit was for browsing the books displayed in the window as we slowly walked away.  I could cry thinking about never making that trip again. 

There was a bit of happiness in my last trip to Nicholas Hoare though.  Looking high up on the shelves I spied a copy of Elizabeth Bowen's To the North; I have this very shop to thank for my introduction to her writing.  Then I spied a new cover on a shelf even higher.  This called for pulling over the library ladder and an excuse to climb its rungs one last time.  I had no idea that The Hotel had been reissued and it's one of the few works by Bowen that I haven't squirreled away.  Ashamedly, it was also one of the first times in ages that I didn't pause to wonder what the cost would be from an internet book site.  This book was going to be my souvenir, if you like, of a farewell visit.  While Nicholas Hoare is retiring to a gorgeous property in Nova Scotia the demise of his shop is in part to just such a sentiment; spend cosy time in a gorgeous bookshop and then go home and click 'check-out now' on a book-selling website.  Thinking about it for a minute I am so glad that Persephone Books is as much an internet business as they are cosy shop proving that the two can successfully co-exist.  Alas, despite all the hope in the world, there was no offer forthcoming to take over Nicholas Hoare so as of April 1 the doors will close buy my fond memories will carry on.  Many thanks to the wonderful staff for their friendly professionalism and literary knowledge over the years, you will most definitely be missed.

 

10 comments:

  1. That is so sad, Darlene, but glad it's for retirement reasons rather than going out of business reasons. I'd be devastated if my Charing Cross Road favourites closed. I'm so sorry your favourite destination is going. Are there other similar spots in the city you can go to for solace?! What a beautiful souvenir! I love that cover. I wonder whether The Last September is being reproduced in that format? It's the only Bowen I've never tracked down...

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    1. It is sad and perhaps a black armband is in order or a black background around this post for the time being! As far as shops carrying new books nothing comes close to Nicholas Hoare, they mostly carry books hot off the press from overseas so there lies the attraction. The second-hand shops around Toronto make me very happy...and dusty...thank goodness for that! This new Bowen is lovely, the cover art makes it very approachable and will hopefully attract a new crop of readers. If I spot The Last September in the same format I'll give you a shout!

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  2. Oh, that sounds like such a loss. I remember how wonderful Hatchards was, and can only imagine what this shop was like. There's a wonderful independent book store in the neighborhood I used to live in - still thankfully close by - and I don't buy enough books there. (I haven't read enough Elizabeth Bowen, either...)

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    1. You can't help but wonder about the people who have walked those creaky stairs at Hatchards, can you! While joy doesn't pay the rent on shops I could tell that the staff at Nicholas Hoare were quite touched at the words of sympathy from the customers. We have to at least make sure those independent shop owners know they are appreciated. Bowen read-along one day, Audrey?

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  3. I hate it when I hear stories like this. Even though I live in a very large city we no longer have any independent bookshops, our last one having closed two years ago. I get swamped in the large corporate stores and simply can't see the books for the shelves, if that makes sense. All my best finds have been in small independents where I can browse without feeling overwhelmed.

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    1. Oh dear, it's happening all over. Would it be hopeless to dream that things will come full circle one day and cosy bookshops will open up to crowds of readers looking for something more?

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  4. It is so difficult finding British books in the States, so I depend on Southern Ontario/Toronto bookstores...what a shame, but I wish him well in his retirement.

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    1. If you're at a loss then try thebookdepository.com, Jean. It's the site I use for those English publications that aren't out around here yet. Your parcel comes stamped 'Royal Mail' which is pretty cool the first few times you see it.

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  5. Oh how terribly sad. I felt like I'd really gotten to know the shop through your blog posts--I always loved the descriptions of your visits...and those wonderful ladders! K x

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