The Suffolk Anthology, Cheltenhamposted on 05 Mar 2016
The Suffolk Anthology, Cheltenham
I've got nothing but admiration for anyone who has enough belief and bottle to open a new independent bookshop. The Suffolk Anthology was opened in February 2015 and so it's now about a year old - still there and looking pretty well established. The shop is in the trendy Suffolks area of Cheltenham and occupies a shop in a listed building - it's certainly characterful but these sort of buildings are not necessarily the best shape for a bookshop and sadly, I think this might be the case here too.
However, the owners have made the most of what they've got to work with. There's a nice big picture window that lets in plenty of light and the upstairs has a decent general fiction section - mainly paperbacks but some key new hardbacks too. For me, however, the best section by some distance is the children's books and I get the distinct impression that someone is a fan - the stock is good and there's plenty of it.
The main room gives way to a slightly odd glazed small back room but it's quite hard to do anything with this space. It leads to a steep set of stairs that give access to a downstairs room that is clearly being used for events / activities and when I was there a group of children were happily colouring and having fun around a table. It does feel a little odd that the books shelved down there are mainly adults books and yet the room feels like a child's play space.
Overall It just feels to me that the shop isn't quite stuffed enough. I'd like a bit more on the shelves and maybe just a touch more chaos - I always feel uncomfortable going into a bookshop and not really getting excited by the atmosphere. Still, it's early days and hopefully the shop will develop a much more assertive identity over time. I made sure I bought something to make my own contribution and I wish them well for the future.