When I moved to Brussels it was with some reservations. But I made up a list of advantages living in our rather unknown capital and one of them was the amount of English speaking people I was about to meet. Experiences like studying English in college and having been an exchange student in the USA turned me into a human who adores anything that has anglo-saxon flair about it.
To keep up this up to date I am forced to read more English than Dutch literature. Not that I mind. Now and then you can find me in a bookstore checking out recent English bestsellers or finding the read of my life. There were enough hangouts to spend my money at but I missed an experienced guide. I was in need of a bookclub. First I checked the local newspaper, read from a-z the weekly cultural agenda, went to big chain bookshops. The last mentioned wouldn't give me straight forward answers. At least they were doing a good job in protecting the privacy of their clients!! They were just not good in attracting a new customer.
The crusade to find the Holy Read became rather tiring and was about to give up till.... At the time we lived in Brussels, P, A and I liked to go out on adventures trying to reveal the hidden treasures of Brussels. And on one of these walks P decided to take a shortcut. We had been on the road for hours and P insisted we would take an unknown route. I was feeling exhausted and in the need for some suguar intake. And the prospect of getting lost turned me into a moody individual. Suddenly P pointed at a sign saying:'Nicola's Bookshop'. The blue and white banner was looking very appealing and so we entered.
And there she was the long awaited bookheaven I was dreaming of and now I just hoped one thing: please let them have a bookclub!! When I popped the question I was holding my breath. 'Yes, there was and did I want to sign up for it?' YES, YES, I do and where is the reading list? I could't wait to get started to read the selected litterature. You can bet that the walk home was finished in a personal best time.
This was three years ago and what am I happy that we took that detour. N turned out to be a very inspiring Irish lady. She made me read many books that I would never have picked of a shelf in those big brand bookstores. My bookcollection became bigger but also much more colorful.
As an extra I got to meet very interesting people who were booklovers as well. Throughout the years many have sat around the table and shared their thaughts and feelings. We discussed books with titles like: Distant Palaces, Island, City of God, The Master and Margarita, The Way to Babylon, Welcome to Paradise, Eva Luna, Balzac and the Little Seamstress, The Whale Caller, ...... Through these titles I travelled to the mystical city of 'La Habana' wandered through Moscow, was chased after in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, got intimate with whales at the coast of South Africa, got enchanted by Chile and it's magical characters , tried to cross the Streets of Gibraltar, got caught up in the China's Cultural Revolution, reflected about the perfect society on the Island of Pala, visited the Flanders Fields and its horrifying drenches at wartime.
During those meetings I felt rather happy because I finally sensed that one senstation that I was after when I moved to this big city: a feeling of solidarity. Here I am sitting together with people brought together by books and speaking up their minds. We can't be called real close friends but we find the time to sit together and listen to what we have picked up while reading. There are moments that I am tempted to call in some political (failed) leaders and invite them to join us. They can learn a few things of attending this bunch. Here you can particpate in world politics and European democracy in a non-hostile environment.
Yesterday we had to say goodbye to two faithful booklovers. A and J, two very faithful readers. J was one of the few male contributors in the bookclub. Thanks to him we got also some male insights. His very soothing voice was also so nice to listen to. A her outgoing personality and spirit could add some extra sparkle to the discussions. They will be missed and we hope that they will find new bookheavens where they can sit down, relax, contemplate, dream off to a better place and discover new titles and authors . New faces will fill up the gaps they leave behind but they won't be forgotten.
N is preparing for the next season to come. First we are invited to read the summer selection that is waiting for us in her store. To me N is a very brave woman. She still runs an independently owned store and does with the alot of fire. N offers you a great service, can make you a pot of (Irish)tea with a good tasting cookie and make you buy rather unknown authors. I don't mind to pay that extra euro knowing that my money is spend well. So when you are close by, have some extra cash to spend and want to travel around the globe, don't hesistate and enter the world of Nicola's bookshop. You might find that one book that will change your life!! It worked for me.
Got curious? Check out the website: http://www.nicolasbookshop.com/.