“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me and reminded me that there are good things in the world.”- Vincent van Gogh
I have loved Much Ado Books, in the pretty medieval village of Alfriston, since I wandered in there on the day of a wedding. Benn was best man, we’d checked out of the room and I was bored. I’d clocked the shop the night before when we’d all gone out to eat and vowed that I’d find my way to it again the next day (it’s an in-built homing device of mine: wherever I am, I search for the bookshop. Old habits die hard, etc.) I remember going inside and buying an old, purple fabric covered copy of Wuthering Heights and asking that a copy of Emily Bronte’s poems be put aside for me, so that I could send money on to buy it. Gleeful with my purchase and relieved that I wasn’t caught up in the whirlwind of the wedding, I made my way back to the hotel and parked myself in the bar with my book, reading serenely in a whirlwind of chaos. (I paid for the poems a few days later and I still have them.)
I’ve found myself wanting to go back there, but have only managed it once- seven years ago. Since then, the store has moved to bigger premises and has been named one of the Guardian’s favourite indie shops. Meanwhile, I still haven’t learnt to drive AND I’ve had a kid; I can’t just get there when I want, more’s the pity. However, today we finally made it- and I felt as much love for the place as I ever did.
The shop has moved since I was last there and it’s heaven across two floors of loveliness. One of the first thing to greet us as we got there was this amazing height chart. Of COURSE we measured ourselves: I’m as tall as Emily Dickinson (cool) and Benn is as tall as George Orwell (also cool.) Also, poor Keats. Tragic AND short. No wonder he was a romantic.
The shop itself sells a mixture of new and old books, including some really lovely antique books; the shop also specialises in works of the Bloomsbury Group, who were based nearby at Charleston and Rodmell.
There’s a warmth to the shop that really encourages you to browse and take your time. I loved wandering through and exploring everything: books, ephemera, prints. I loved the way that old and damaged books had been recycled into new things, such as notebooks and fun cards full of buttons.
On a rainy day, the reading nooks were incredibly inviting… I could have spent HOURS here.
There are so many little hidden treasures around the store- I loved this old man perched on top of one of the bookcases!
The view from upstairs- isn’t this garden heavenly? Much like the rest of the shop. And it was lovely to escape (like old Vincent) from a rainy, doom-filled world to just spend some time in an oasis of bookish calm… although I did end up buying a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale to re-read, so make of that what you will!
This is honestly my favourite bookshop in the world. If ever you’re in Sussex and can get there, you need to visit. In the meantime, Benn has promised that we won’t leave it seven years ’til our next visit.
You can visit Much Ado Books online here.