Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bookish quotes: The Lending Room in the Little Bookshop on the Seine

Back in the blogging days I used to randomly do a feature called Bookish Quotes whenever I came across a quote that capture my attention about writing, books or bookshops in a book. I thought I would start doing them again now as well.

This quote comes from The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin which I recently read. There were so many quotes about books and food in this book it was hard to limit the choice to just one. So, this is a longish one, but hopefully you will enjoy reading the passage as much as I did.

If I thought that I could find this place in Paris I would totally try to find it! I do intend to at least take a peak in Shakespeare and Sons whilst we are there soon.

Oceane smiled. "And next, we have the lending library." She led me through an archway, where someone had scrawled in thick, black permanent marker 'This way to paradise'.
The lending library was ripe with the thick stench of old tomes and the lemony scent of new novels. Their fragrances mingled together in the space, almost like a perfume, a heady combination of past and present.
Sophie's bookshop was so alive it hummed, dust motes danced, and I had to fight the urge to flop on a chair, and snatch up the nearest book.
An antique grandfather clock stood to one side of the room, its chimes long since stopped, the golden hands paused on the witching hour. "Who runs the lending library?" I asked.
Oceane leant against the wall. "Bertie, Francois, and Philippe. They organize their shifts between them, and keep track of the loans. You don't need to do anything for it. Sophie's pretty lax about the whole process. There's index cards, and stamps, it's very old school. The lending library is hallowed - it's been available for locals since the doors opened here back in the twenties. During the Great Depression, no one could afford much of anything, especially books, so strangers found their way here, and knew they could take whatever they wished. They became members, friends and weren't faceless or nameless any more."
"This history practically seeps through the walls." I was in awe of the shop, it had presence, almost like it was a character unto itself. "Do you ever wonder who sat here a century ago, and rummaged through these boxes of books?"
Her eyes grew bright. "Of course. I imagine people back then stopped past with rumbling bellies, their lives grim because of the depression, until they found their way here, and they could forget their troubles, escaping into the pages of a good book, a warm drink in hand. What could be better than that? Sophie's grandfather opened the store. When he first started, he only used the front parlor, but as time went by his reputation spread, he grew more successful and expanded into other rooms, eventually buying the apartments above. He never changed his principles....everyone was welcome here whether they had money or not. It was popular among American writers back then, a meeting place for literary itinerants."
"I get goosebumps, thinking about the stories they could've told. Do you think when they finally settled, back on home soil, they remembered their time here fondly?"
"Oui," she said, crossing her arms against the chill in the room. "A lot of them were young. Travelling after the war or just because they were free, who knows? And when it was time to move,or go back to reality, they always had this place in their heart. Sophie has a thick folder of correspondence, letters sent over decades, people thanking them for their hospitality, some dedicating the books they wrote here to Sophie's grandfather. Others saying they searched their whole lives for  the simple happiness Paris provided, but never found it again. Over a bottle of two of vin rouge, I read each and every one of them. I've told her she should publish epic love story of people and place."
"That would be an amazing book..." Taking in the room, I thought of the people who once inhabited this space; I pictured the scene in black and white, like an old photograph. "The room has a sense of timelessness to it." As if time truly stopped, just like the grandfather clock. And those people long since gone from this world had found the place just as it was now, a sanctuary for word lovers.
"The store has a rich and famous history. It's why people come here and don't want to leave." Oceane spoke in reverent tones, gazing wistfully around. The rooms were weathered, the furniture battered, the store's once former glory dimmed, faded like late afternoon sunlight through a dusty window, which made it one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.
"Why would you want to leave?" I said. It was like a grand old dame, this shop. Once haughty, now a reflection of it's past, and all that happened here..
She laughed and surveyed me. "Your face is flushed like you've fallen in love too."
I promptly closed my mouth,and scraped back my hair. "How could you not? It's like nothing I've ever seen before...almost like their ghosts are still here, those readers. Maybe that's why the sign says 'this way to paradise'?
Her gaze softened once more. "Like heaven? Well why not?" Soft laughter burbled out of her. "If I died and had to choose a place to spend eternity, it would be here."


  1. What a fantastic extract. I must check my Kindle because I have a feeling that I've got this unread on there.

  2. Great quote! I too want to go there.

    "Do you ever wonder who sat here a century ago, and rummaged through these boxes of books?" -- yes!

    1. Who sat in these chairs, what did they talk about, what were their lives like. So many questions.

  3. Awesome photo you have shared here, Thanks a lot for sharing it because it make myself to love.