Southwold’s last bookshop is facing its final chapter

IT has its own annual literary festival and has been a favoured spot for authors from George Orwell to PD James.

But now Southwold is facing a sad chapter in its history, as its last remaining bookshop prepares to close it doors.

Bookthrift, in Market Place, is due to close on September 13 – the third local bookshop to shut in the last year.

When the shop puts up the 'closed' sign for a final time it will be the second blow in six months suffered by its manager Pamela O'Hara. She was also manager at The Orwell Bookshop in High Street which shut in early April because of growing competition from supermarkets and internet rivals such as Amazon.

After The Orwell Bookshop closed, Mrs O'Hara was delighted to be given the chance to run Bookthrift, where customers can buy a mixture of new titles, best-sellers, remainered books and reference books.

But after just five months in charge, she now faces losing the 'love of her life' – working in bookshops.

'When customers come in and ask why we are closing I sometimes have to go in the back to hold back the tears,' said Mrs O'Hara, 51, from Reydon, who has worked in bookshops for 12 years.

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'The bookshop is perfect for all the family as people of all ages can come in here and get something different to take away.

'When we shut I will put on a brave face and resist any temptation to cry. It is a shame that Southwold will no longer have a bookshop – bookshops have become an important part of Southwold. I was really disappointed when I was told we would be closing. I just love working here and love all the customers.'

The decision to close was taken by Bookthrift's owners as they will no longer hold the lease to the store. It comes only two months before the start of the Way With Words Southwold Literature Fesitval on November 10. The other bookshop to close in the last year was Southwold Books in Pinkneys Lane.

Summing up the mood, one customer has left a note in Bookthrift's window which features a qoute by author Neil Gaiman from his book American Gods which says: 'What I say is a town isn't a town without a bookstore.

'It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore, it knows it's not foolin' a soul.'

When asked about Bookthrift's impending closure, Guy Mitchell, chairman of Southwold and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: 'It is very, very sad Southwold will no longer have a book shop. In Southwold we have pride ourselves on the variety of shops we have here.'

His view was echoed by Kay Dunbar, director of the literature festival. She said: 'How sad for Southwold. Bookshops are such lovely places to browse.

'In among the bookshelves you can find yourself being drawn to and tempted by books in a way that simply does not happen on internet sites such as Amazon.'

l During the five-day festival, a temporary bookshop will be set up at St Edmund's Hall by Rosemary Stoodley, who used to own the Orwell Bookshop.

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