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A view from behind the bookshelf

A bookshop can only sell books as long as there are authors to write them. We are delighted to have a guest post for you today from author Claire Dyer, about her love of browsing bookshops. If you’d like to write a guest post for our blog, please do get in touch.

To have time to browse a bookshop’s shelves is like eating a bar of chocolate very slowly, very deliberately, each mouthful a burst of flavour and comfort; a reminder of childhood and watching the afternoon film on TV with someone you love.

So when I can and instead of eating chocolate or watching the afternoon film I go to a book shop and browse.  I always start with the fiction displays and look for people I know and admire but, being perverse, I start with the Z’s and work my way back to the A’s. I let the covers beguile me and the shout lines tempt me into worlds I know have been hewn from a profound love of place and time and which are packed with characters who are bright and shining people and who have amazing stories to tell.

I pick up books at random and read the first paragraph, imagining the careful crafting and re-crafting of that vital first sentence.  I flick to the back to read the Acknowledgements to where the author thanks those who have given them the love and support they’ve needed to write the book. Finally, I trace my fingers over the author’s name, imagine the journey they’ve been on from writing that first sentence to having me holding a copy of their book in my hands and find myself thanking the owners and staff of whichever bookshop I’m in for giving me the chance to be there.

However, now and for me at least, there’s also the view from behind the bookshelf …

Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to run a workshop at Chipping Norton Literary Festival with fellow author and poet, Kate Rhodes. Before the session I visited the lovely, coffee-and-cake-filled Jaffe & Neale Bookshop and there on the shelf were my novels The Moment and The Perfect Affair next to Joanna Trollope’s latest release, Balancing Act. It was both awesome and strange seeing them there; almost like seeing your children alone out there in the big wide world for the first time!

Photographs were taken which were tweeted and put on Facebook and, as I picked up the copies of my books, re-read the first sentences, flicked through to the Acknowledgements and traced my fingers over my own name on the cover, I remembered those moments of searing joy when my characters told me exactly what to write next, the sentences in each novel of which I am especially proud, the careful editing and worrying over punctuation and syntax, the texture and colour of the scenes I saw in my head and the music, how my books seem to have a musical score to them. I also remembered the ideas that seemed to come to me in my sleep; the highs and lows in my characters’ lives, the day I let myself know how each book was going to end and the awful awful moment when I had to let tragedy in …

So, for this I’d like to thank Jaffe & Neale Bookshop and hope that whenever and wherever a book is picked off a shelf, whoever is looking at it knows that the author is also there, looking on, feeling grateful and immensely lucky.


The Perfect Affair, by Claire Dyer, is out now, and available at Jaffé & Neale! To buy a copy, just drop us a line, pop in, or call us on 01608 641033. 

The perfect affair

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