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The Lost Bookshop
by Evie Woods

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The Echo of Old Books meets The Lost Apothecary in this evocative and charming novel full of mystery and secrets.

‘The thing about books,’ she said ‘is that they help you to imagine a life bigger and better than you could ever dream of.’

On a quiet street in Dublin, a lost ...

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Introduction

The Echo of Old Books meets The Lost Apothecary in this evocative and charming novel full of mystery and secrets.

‘The thing about books,’ she said ‘is that they help you to imagine a life bigger and better than you could ever dream of.’

On a quiet street in Dublin, a lost bookshop is waiting to be found…

For too long, Opaline, Martha and Henry have been the side characters in their own lives.

But when a vanishing bookshop casts its spell, these three unsuspecting strangers will discover that their own stories are every bit as extraordinary as the ones found in the pages of their beloved books. And by unlocking the secrets of the shelves, they find themselves transported to a world of wonder… where nothing is as it seems.

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Excerpt

Chapter Seven

Opaline

Paris, 1921

I started early the next day, enquiring about jobs wherever I saw a sign that read offres d�¢??emploi. It rapidly became clear that no one wanted to hire a young English woman with no skills to speak of, broken French and no experience of commerce. The naivety of my plan, or rather the lack of it, filled me with panic. I wandered the streets aimlessly, blindly hoping for a sign. I let myself be swept along by people who knew where they were going and crossed the Seine on the glorious Pont Neuf. I raised my eyes to the spires of the Notre Dame cathedral, thinking of Esmerelda and Victor Hugo. I reached inside my satchel and rested my hand on the Baudelaire. Even feeling the book under my fingertips calmed me. I couldn�¢??t explain it, not even to myself, but books gave me an unflinching sense of stability and groundedness. That because words survived, somehow I would too.

As I walked the drizzled streets, feeling as though I were about to give up, I came across a bookshop called �¢??Shakespeare and Company�¢??. There was something reassuring about seeing that name. The doorway was blocked with boxes, and I saw two women just behind them, arguing over where to put things. They spoke English, and while one had an American accent, the other was unmistakably French.

The window gleamed with a luminous display of books �¢?? a rainbow of colourful calf bindings, woodcuts and intriguing title pages. The familiar feeling of excitement and curiosity I always had looking in the window of a bookshop pricked my skin. Don�¢??t buy anything, I warned myself, as I craned my neck to look inside.

�¢??Give me a hand, will you?�¢?? said the shorter of the two. She was dressed in a tweed jacket and skirt and reminded me of a scout leader, someone you obeyed unquestioningly.

I rather awkwardly took the other side of a large box she was holding, which had the weight of a small elephant.

�¢??An occupational hazard,�¢?? she said, amused by all my huffing and puffing.

�¢??I�¢??m afraid I don�¢??t have much in the way of muscles,�¢?? I replied.

�¢??Is that an English accent I detect?�¢??

I nodded and introduced myself.

�¢??My name is Sylvia. Sylvia Beach.�¢?? She gave a firm handshake. �¢??Well, you�¢??re in the right place. We stock English language novels.�¢??

�¢??You mean, you own this shop?�¢?? I asked rather stupidly. It was just that I had never heard of a woman running her own bookshop before.

�¢??And all of the debt that comes along with it!�¢?? she laughed. It sounded like a bark and was quite infectious. I found myself laughing along, even though I wasn�¢??t entirely sure what we were laughing about.

�¢??I don�¢??t suppose you�¢??re hiring?�¢?? I blurted out, hoping I didn�¢??t sound too desperate.

Miss Beach leaned back against some boxes with a thoughtful expression on her face.

�¢??Am I hiring?�¢?? she asked, rhetorically.

�¢??Do you have experience working in a bookshop?�¢?? asked the other woman, who reappeared from inside the shop.

�¢??This is Miss Monnier, she owns the shop across the street,�¢?? Miss Beach explained.

Unlike Sylvia, her dark eyes looked me over suspiciously and I instinctively knew she found me wanting.

�¢??Not particularly,�¢?? I confessed. A look passed between them. Perhaps they had seen this before, a naive girl searching for her Parisian dream. �¢??I earned my passage here by selling a first edition Dickens and here, look,�¢?? I said, taking the Baudelaire from my satchel. �¢??I bought this from one of the bouquinistes along the Seine.�¢??

Miss Beach took it carefully in her hands, gently opening the cover and checking every page.

�¢??It�¢??s important to count every page,�¢?? she said quietly. �¢??The earlier in print history you go, the more likely you are to discover missing pages.�¢??

�¢??Is that so?�¢??

�¢??Yes, we call the period before the 1800s the hand-press period, when paper was a much more valuable commodity and people tore pages from books for their own use. Well, this is a nice find. Congratulations.�¢??

�¢??Thank you,�¢?? I said, taking it back.

�¢??You have an eye for quality, and any young woman who can trade her way to the continent in books clearly has a flair for the business. How about I take you on as an apprentice, teach you what I know about books?�¢??

I began to gush effusively when she held her hand up to halt me.

�¢??I can�¢??t pay you well and the hours might be long, but you will learn much and make some important contacts.�¢??

�¢??Oh, Miss Beach,�¢?? I gasped, �¢??I�¢??m quite unaccustomed to being speechless, but this may just be a first.�¢??

�¢??Good. Can�¢??t stand sentimentalism. Now, you can start by helping us with these deliveries.�¢??

�¢??Start now?�¢??

�¢??Well, is there a better time than the present?�¢?? she asked, in that matter-of-fact tone I would come to depend upon, more than I could ever have known.

***

Shakespeare and Company was a fascinating place to be. The shop itself had the quiet warmth of all bookshops, with dark wooden shelves worn soft over the years and that unmistakable scent of paper and leather. But Sylvia, who was merely a few years older than me, was something of a mother hen to a bohemian family of artists and writers, offering them a refuge, a lending library, a literary social club, a post office and (she hoped) a publishing house. She had befriended an Irish writer by the name of Joyce and was so passionate about his writing that she intended to publish his debut novel, Ulysses. It was a very great risk, as the work was so avant-garde, the author feared it would be suppressed for ever. Nor did it help that the manuscript itself was three times the length of an average novel, which would be astronomical to print.

On my very first day, I must have behaved like a child given the keys to a toy shop. I found my attention being pulled hither and thither by books of every age, every subject and binding. I couldn�¢??t help but wonder who they had once belonged to? Where had they travelled from? What is the scent?

�¢??You shall be no use to me if you insist on behaving like a customer, Opaline,�¢?? Sylvia announced sharply, and over the following days I made a concerted effort not to be swayed by every interesting book I saw, which was often.

She was determined that I should learn the business from the ground up. I began by lugging books around and shelving them carefully, as well as serving customers as best I could. On quieter days, whilst dusting the shelves or the books themselves, she explained the finer details of being a book trader.

�¢??Now, an old book isn�¢??t necessarily rare, Opaline. A book becomes rare when it�¢??s both hard to find and highly sought after. And it�¢??s not just books that are valuable to collectors; manuscripts, prints, etchings, archives �¢?? even letters. Especially letters. Anything that will feed the insatiable curiosity that surrounds the greatest minds.�¢??

I must have looked unsure because she stopped what she was doing for a moment and turned to face me.

�¢??Not convinced?�¢??

�¢??I just, I�¢??m not sure why someone would want to collect someone�¢??s letters. How could they even be sure they were authentic?�¢??

�¢??Very good question, we�¢??ll make a literary sleuth out of you yet. Who�¢??s your favourite author?�¢?? she asked.

�¢??Easy,�¢?? I said. �¢??Emily Bront�?�«.�¢??

�¢??Right, well, isn�¢??t there anything you�¢??d like to know about Miss Bront�?�« other than the fact that she lived a quiet life on the moors?�¢??

I thought about it for a moment. There were many questions I had, like did she ever fall in love? Was she happy or sad?

�¢??What I�¢??ve always wondered, I mean, the one question that always frustrated me is whether or not she began writing a second novel before she died and if so, what had happened to it?�¢??

�¢??There you are then. Now you have your question you can start searching for the answer.�¢?? view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Opaline’s love of books is what guides her through life, like talismans and passports of escape. As a reader, what do books mean to you? How have books impacted your life?

2. Were there any significant plot twists that surprised you?

3. Did the book provoke any emotional responses from you? Which scenes stood out in terms of their impact?

4. What did you make of the magical elements in the book? Did they add to your experience of the bookshop?

5. The plot highlights the impact of living in a patriarchal society in both timelines. What is your assessment of the male characters in the book and how their storylines developed?

6. Were there any lines or passages that stood out to you or that you highlighted?

7. Did the different settings make you eager to visit the locations mentioned in the book?

8. What was your impression of Saint Agnes’s and Opaline’s experience there? Have you read/seen anything on the topic of asylums before?

9. Magical feminism is one of the genres explored in this story, to challenge societal norms and give women agency and empowerment. How did you experience this aspect of the story?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

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