We're pleased to offer the following new books for sale:
The House Under the Mountain, By Starlight and Candlelight and Hannah's Ghost.
Anne has a close and proud connection with The Topsham Bookshop. She lives in Topsham and her most recent two books, The House Under the Mountain and By Starlight and Candlelight have been edited by Lily Neal, the bookshop’s owner. Both these books are available new from the bookshop.
Anne's first published book, Someone Came Knocking, was Commended for the Carnegie Medal in 1993 then subsequently selected for the International Board on Books for Young People UK Honours Award.
Anne grew up in North Wales and Cheshire and these locations provide a backdrop for both of her most recent publications.
Anne has a lifetime’s experience in education, teaching primary and secondary children and latterly preparing teachers themselves through the School of Education at the University of Exeter.
Isobel Davies, Anne’s sister has provided the illustrations for Anne’s books so they are very much a family production. Anne is pictured here (on the right) with Isobel at the launch of The House Under the Mountain.
Anne continues to write and enjoys reading other authors such as William Trevor, Helen Dunmore, Penelope Lively and Ann Patchett.
Talking About Topsham
The late Sara Vernon, long-time Topsham resident and published novelist (under her pen-name of Sara Yeomans), had many talents, one of which was her ability to listen carefully to local people and record faithfully what she had heard. She used that skill to great effect in 1988 in a slim pamphlet entitled Talking About Topsham which was published by Chips Barber's Obelisk Press. Many older residents of Topsham spoke through the pages of that pamphlet of their young lives in Topsham earlier in the twentieth century, and we still occasionally get secondhand copies in the bookshop.
In 2007, when Talking About Topsham had gone out of print and it was obvious that it would never be reprinted by Obelisk (Chips himself had sadly died two years earlier), Lily Neal persuaded Sara to reissue the title in conjunction with another piece she had been working on, Fairy Tales of Topsham by The Brothers Pym. This was a series of reminiscences by brothers Denzil and Ken Pym who had lived in Topsham all their lives and related many interesting - and at times very funny - anecdotes of their childhood and their earlier working lives, when as well as being involved in various enterprises around the town, they also fished for salmon in the River Exe every season. Sara called them "fairy tales" because of their generous stretching of the truth - a trait for which fishermen have been famed for centuries!
Dr. Anne Musson, a keen local historian, lent Sara the money to publish the two titles together as one book and Mike Patrick, another keen local historian, helped to source more and better photographic illustrations for the new book.
The Vacant Chair and other stories of the Amman Valley
Gryff Thomas has lived in Topsham for many years and is known by many as the former Head of History at Exmouth Community College, but as anyone who has met him will immediately discover, he originally hails from South Wales. This book of reminiscences of his childhood and early life, published in 2016, has a very strong Welsh flavour. The stories in it are almost readable as fiction, being in the main delightfully funny and with a splendid cast of eccentric family members, but he assures his readers that he has hardly had to embroider the original events at all.
Although Gryff has self-published several books of satirical verse about erstwhile and current residents in Topsham - and indeed has written many fiction works which have yet to be published - this is probably his best book to date. Sadly, it is now almost out of print, but he is planning a revised second edition for this year.
A charming short novella of Gryff's entitled Out of Their Depth, which came out in 2016 not long before The Vacant Chair, is now completely out of print. It tells the story of two young Welsh miners who discover a little black juvenile devil whilst working very deep underground and attempt to look after the little fellow. Who knows? - perhaps Gryff will be persuaded to re-publish this some time, too.