Six Months On – 1 April 2023

Today marks six months since we opened Heron Books. Six months since a heron flew over us as we made our way to Clifton to open to the public for the first time. Six months since that first adrenaline-fuelled day of rushing around, greeting old and new friends and gushing about Elizabeth Strout. Six months since I first (and last?) left a cup of steaming coffee in front of the till drawer, which burst open and drenched both me and Josh. No books were harmed.

Here are some completely invented numbers to sum up that time.

  • 203: copies of Small Things Like These sold.
  • 1: person who did not think much of Small Things Like These. I talked them round.
  • >1000: discussions about how beautiful Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations are.
  • 58: hot chocolates enjoyed from the East Village café. (Expected it to be more.)
  • 1: poems we have inspired (as far as we know).
  • 44: sausage dogs welcomed into the shop.
  • 1: sausage dog, slightly less welcome, after eating a book. Still cute.
  • 457: passers-by who have tried to speak whale.
  • 1: card received from Jackie Morris herself.
  • 4: times I cried reading the card. Thus far.
  • 6: time we close this evening. After which, we will be drinking some champagne and cuddling Ozymandias the cat by way of celebration.

I am currently reading Quiet by Victoria Adukwei Bulley. For a collection of that title, the poems are perhaps closer to a dignified howl. The poem ‘Realpolitik’ exploring beauty is, well, a beauty. Poetry-wise, I am also excited to read Couplets by Maggie Milner, a novel-in-verse about an affair, about obsession and about the art of literature.

In other book news:

Tomás Nevinson by Javier Marías – the eponymous character is an ex-spy pulled out of retirement to catch the terrorist responsible for bombings in 1990s Spain. This has just been published posthumously and as a huge fan of Marías’ fiction and non-fiction, I can’t wait to read his final literary espionage thriller.

Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood – a new collection of short stories from the unparalleled Margaret Atwood featuring the right way to stop someone from choking, a daughter determining if her mother really is a witch, a confused snail, Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell and Hypatia of Alexandria.

Shalash the Iraqi (by Shalash?) – this novel started as a pseudonymous blog written during the Second Iraq War. With the electricity off, printouts were handed out across Baghdad and passed around for months. Now the drunken monologues, prayers, poetry and folk stories have been translated to bring you a story you have not heard before.  

Humanly Possible by Sarah Bakewell – asking what humanism is and why it has flourished for so long, despite opposition from fanatics, mystics and tyrants, Sarah Bakewell’s new book is a celebration of freedom. “Humanism – what is it good for” on Start the Week is also well worth a listen.

Dispatches from the Diaspora by Gary Younge – over thirty years, Younge has borne witness to some of the most significant events and personalities, accompanying Mandela on his first election campaign, entering New Orleans days after hurricane Katrina, interviewing Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou and Stormzy. He has seen change and he has seen how embedded systems can thwart change.

Courting India by Nandini Das – the history of Thomas Roe’s arrival in India in 1616 and the beginning of British imperialism. Das offers an inside story of palace intrigue and scandal, of lotteries and wagers, of a global trade beginning to stretch from Russia to Virginia, from West Africa to the Spice Islands of Indonesia.

If you are in need of some Easter-themed delights for children, look no further than Five Little Easter Bunnies by Martha Mumford or The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett.

We have lots of super events on the horizon from poetry to book launches to book groups. All the details are on the website. Watch this space for an announcement about a food and book event coming soon…  

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