The North Recommends: The Book Case

The Book Case has been a fixture on Hebden Bridge’s Market Street for over 20 years. When we took it over in 2011, it was on the verge of closing, but we have turned it round with the help of a talented staff team. We specialise in nature/landscape writing and fiction. Hebden Bridge attracts writers of all types, which means that many of the books we stock are by our customers! We also have a very active local history society, who have published an impressive array of titles, meaning our local interest section is always well stocked.

What we didn’t anticipate when we took the shop on was that we’d be in the running for the Most Flooded Bookshop in England award. Twice in 2012, once in 2015, and again this February. Global heating and a steep rainy valley mean that worse is likely to come. We have a unique and much admired flood defence system, created by a local engineer and inventor, where our sign comes down from above the window on hydraulics and forms a barrier protecting the shop, along with an automatic pumping system, and shelves which fold up to form protective boxes for the stock.

It was while we recovered from Storm Ciara, and watched the forecasts anxiously as more storms rode in, that I picked up an advance copy of When The Lights Go Out by Carys Bray (Hutchinson – published May 20). Contrary to my expectations, this isn’t another climate disaster dystopia, but concerns the effects on us of having that disaster on the horizon. An ordinary family living by the Lancashire coast are struggling with the effects of austerity and changes to the weather. The father becomes obsessed with the need for them to prepare for an apocalypse which he can see signs and portents of in each days news.  As his fixation deepens, his behaviour begins to threaten to destroy the family.

I expect this book to do very well with our customers, and deservedly so. Depicting working class northern lives is always welcome, as we are still under-represented in literature. But the real strength here is the realisation that, paradoxically, a rational assessment of the threats we face can tip us into irrational actions.

The feeling that we are powerless to affect events can, of course, be more debilitating than the fear of what those events might be. Which is presumably why inspirational stories like Isabella Tree’s Wilding (Picador), recounting the return to nature of a British farm are so popular at present. We’re very enthusiastic about Sally Featherstone’s Flora (Opitus Books), a large format photography book showing how the landscape around her Todmorden farmstead was transformed by sympathetic management to encourage biodiversity, and the return of native species. Given the role of upland management in flood mitigation, this is a book that gives us some hope for the future.

Contact The Book Case:

29 Market St, Hebden Bridge, HX7  6EU

Twitter: @bookcasehebden