Watching You’ve Got Mail and Notting Hill invariably awakens in me a desire to own a bookstore.These two movies have bookstore owners as the main protagonists and feature two out-of-the-world bookstores.You’ve Got Mail has Meg Ryan playing Kathleen Kelly who owns a children’s book store called The Shop Around The Corner. In Notting Hill, the scrumptious Hugh Grant is William Thacker, the quirky owner of a travel book store named The Travel Company. These two movies awaken the sleeping book shop owner within me and I’m seized by a strong desire to just go out and start one. A few deep breaths and a couple of bars of chocolate is the only cure. A book store has always been a secret wish hidden carefully in a corner of my mind. I spend a lot of time, especially while travelling, envisioning the store and the way it should be. The best part of this store-in-the-mind, is the changes I can make whenever I wish . Walls have been demolished and rooms have been re-aligned many times over. However, there’re certain details which are unalterable. The colours used are warm and earthy and books of all genres are available. My staff members are friendly, have a sound knowledge of books and will spend ages talking to you about books.There’re cosy white armchairs with bright blue and red cushions, around a small round wicker table. The bay windows have large vases of fresh flowers, and beautiful plants nestle in corners. Elegantly framed prints of the covers of yesteryear bestsellers look down from the walls. Even though I’m not an avid cat lover, there has to be a marmalade-orange tabby cat snoozing in a patch of sunshine. Friends who drop in will be served strong coffee or delicately flavoured tea in huge yellow cups.
The Shop Around The Corner is like a dream bookshop. It’s so disheartening when I visit bookstores which are part of huge chains. They’re soulless things where the employees are more bothered about cleaning the place, hovering around without being helpful in any way, and ringing in sales. They ration their smiles and enquiries of any kind send them scurrying back to the manager. A glimpse of A Shop Around The Corner calms me down. The shop is magical, and Kathleen Kelly’s love for books and readers shines through. She’s so warm and open and it’s so heart warming to see the faces of the children who come there for her story telling sessions. The store plays its magic on me each time I watch the movie. It’s a place where books are not just commodities but entities with their own mystique. Kathleen Kelly is aware of each book in her store and the names of all the authors.The Shop Around The Corner is a labour of love passed down to her from her mother. The icing on the cake are the employees working here especially unconventional, feisty Birdie, with her biting, witty one-liners.
Now coming to the next movie which has a bewitching bookstore, the wonderfully romantic Notting Hill. Hugh Grant is a major distraction with his adorable smiles and laughing blue eyes. He’s perfect as the owner of a small travel bookstore in Notting Hill. The shop is chockablock full of books. The idea of a bookstore which caters only to travel sounds exciting and exotic. The original shop on which this was based is called The Travel Bookshop. William Thacker’s (Hugh Grant) bookshop is quiet and beautiful. I think the idea of surrounding oneself with so many things related to travel makes daily life slightly more exciting. Far flung destinations and breath taking locations would be all around ! William Thacker is not as passionate about books as Kathleen Kelly. However he has a fair idea of the authors represented in his shop. The scene in which he tries to get Julia Roberts interested in a book on Turkey is a delightful one.
These two movies make me want to open book stores but at the same time when I see the fate of The Shop Around The Corner it stops me in my tracks. This wonderful store has to bow down to commercialism and close due to the arrival of a bookstore chain nearby. William Thacker does not close his shop. However, The Travel Bookshop which is the inspiration for the bookshop in the movie, had to close down due to non-viability of the venture. But there’s a glimmer of hope cos another bookshop opened in the premises. Bookstore chains are taking the charm out of shopping for books. It’s hard to immerse yourself in the world of books when there’s chatter all around, music is blaring from speakers, and often there’s a screaming child in the toys section. I must be sounding terribly old worldly, but the beauty and appeal of a bookstore selling only books, where the only sounds are the swish of the ceiling fan and the rustle of pages, is immense. The silence is poignant with a million words which have come out of the books to get a feel of the patrons whose homes they will go to. That is a true bookstore…