Bookshop of the Month – March 2022: Warwick Books
In Conversation with Vaseem Khan
Warwick Books, located a stone’s throw from ancient Warwick Castle, was established in 2004 by Keith and Frances Smith. Today, the shop is run by Mog and Pauline Giacomelli-Harris, a book-loving couple, who moved from France to take over the store.
The pair were living in the culturally hectic 13th arrondissement in Paris. Pauline had finished an intense job – as the general secretary for a youth organisation. The pair had met working for the same charity and were now searching for a new challenge. That Christmas, Mog’s parents visited from Warwick and happened to mention that Keith and Frances wanted to sell Warwick Books…
That was all it took. Mog and Pauline decided to take the plunge and, in 2015, they moved back to the UK to take over the shop.
Warwick is a small town, with a vibrant high street, and a tradition of independent stores. Mog has multigenerational roots in the area and twisted the arms of friends and family when the shop opened. Over the years, like many indies, the shop has become a community hub. I asked the pair about their fondest memories over the past seven years.
Mog recalled a school event organised by the shop for children’s fantasy author, Amy Wilson. Amy touched on the fact that several family members had died when she was younger. A young girl in the audience waited till the end to talk to Amy and then told her about her own brother, who’d also died weeks earlier. Watching an author and a reader communicate at such a profound level was a humbling experience for Mog. She says, “I can’t think about that without getting a lump in my throat.” Pauline’s claim to fame is an amazing egg sandwich – visiting authors are often treated to one. Amy Wilson loved hers so much she put it in her subsequent book!
In terms of challenges, the pair make an important point about younger readers who read physical books till about age 13 and then flip over to electronic or online fan fiction. In spite of this they remain upbeat, holding onto a belief in the “3-D experience” of going into a bookshop and picking up a physical book. “I have confidence in books as a product!” says Mog.
I asked the pair about representation, given that they are a same-sex couple operating in an industry grappling with issues of diversity. “We understand that we’re a rarity,” they say. “And we do try to curate a diverse range of books in the shop. Sometimes customers come in with younger readers who see these books and it prompts discussions about their sexuality. It’s a wonderful feeling to have an exchange with a young person who leaves with the idea that they’ve been seen.”
24 Market Pl, Warwick CV34 4SL
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