A Life in Books….an occasional series of chats with people from the world of books
In Conversation with Marjory Marshall, of The Bookmark Bookshop, Grantown on Spey
The Bookmark has been owned and managed by Mrs Marjory Marshall since 2007 when Marjory was looking for something to occupy her time after her children had left the family home. Marjory personally selects every title and the astonishing range of stock squeezed into limited shelf space reflects her own eclectic and very varied reading interests.
I knew Marjory was a force of nature long before I met her this weekend. Michael J Malone had told me that when he met her, some years ago, he was working as a book rep for a major publisher and The Bookmark was one of the independent bookshops on his route. What he told me about Marjory was that she was so interested in people and so passionate about books that by the time he left her shop, she had sold him a book.
That book was Witch Light by Susan Fletcher, and Marjory recommends it still – alongside Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, which she says has a similar feel and flavour.
Marjory Marshall is the eldest of 7 children and she has always been a book lover. Her escape from the cacophony of sound that was six siblings was into the world of books. It was, she says, her only form of relaxation, because reading takes you away from everyone and everything.
Her love of books helped her to pass the entrance exam for a private girls school where she quickly found that she was a fish out of water; but she quickly adapted by becoming the school librarian, which proved to be a huge advantage when she came to take over The Bookmark in 2007.
Marjory describes herself as a “short, chatty bookseller”. In fact she is of course, much more than that. A passionate enthusiast and champion of all things books, she is also a raconteur and storyteller. She has a real connection with people and she makes sure that when she is in her bookshop she isn’t standing behind the counter but is out front chatting to people, finding out about them and gauging what kind of books might spark their interest.
It is forging that connection that is so important to her and it shines through when you see the strength of the relationship she has not only with her customers, but with the authors who come to the Bookmark for events.
The Bookmark is keen to stimulate community enthusiasm in all things literary. To that end Marjory aims to bring interesting, exciting authors to Grantown, both established names and those starting out on their writing careers. This is your chance to meet the writers themselves and find out what’s behind their latest book. Whether the audience has a burning question to ask or simply wants to sit and listen, these are informal and enjoyable gatherings open to all.
So, apart from being one of the few independent bookshops left in Scotland, why is the Bookmark so special? Just listen to what these customers say…
“This is the best bookshop I have ever been in. Marjory is a dedicated lover of books- particularly for children and read an absolutely beautiful book to my 3 children whilst we were browsing. She recommended dozens of books; has a fantastic selection and was an absolute pleasure to chat with. She lives and breathes books and has helped me to now inspire others to read in my classroom down in Lancashire- thank you so much Marjory! I highly recommend everyone visits- you won’t be disappointed!”
“No visit to Grantown is complete without a visit to this wonderful bookshop. Whatever your reading tastes, the incredibly knowledgeable owner, Majory, will find a book to delight you. Over the years she has introduced us to many great books that we would probably never have read otherwise.”
“A small shop but crammed with all kinds of books where you can easily lose an hour or two just browsing. The owner is extremely enthusiastic and passionate about books and seems to have read every single one of them. A great encouragement to kids with a huge and varied selection. Lots of local interest books and a place that we always visit when in Grantown. Every town should have a bookshop like this and someone like Marjory to run it.”
That’s just a small sample of the excellent reviews The Bookmark has on Trip Advisor. She caters for local people and holidaymakers with a truly eclectic range of books, doesn’t really go in for celebrity and all her books are new. As a sole proprietor she does pretty much everything herself including running three book groups and cajoling publishers into reminding them that independent bookshops (and particularly bookshops North of Edinburgh) can be a really good way of getting their authors profiled and books sold. She never stops finding ways of reminding people that the Bookmark is here.
Independent Bookseller of the Year – shortlisted in 2013 and Shortlisted for Regional Bookseller Industry Award 2016.
Against stiff competition from retailers across the UK, The Bookmark was shortlisted for the prestigious Independent Bookseller of the Year Awards 2013 in two categories – for independent bookshop owner/manager and best childrens’ independent bookshop. Marjory is proud that Grantown’s high street bookshop can compete with the best in Britain.
Of course Marjory is also the founding spirit and organiser of The Wee CrimeFest in Grantown on Spey that I have just spent the weekend enjoying. Marjory’s vision for the festival is that it should remain intimate and accessible – that is, after all, what makes it quite so special, but she really sees Grantown on Spey growing organically and being to crime writing what Hay on Wye is to literature. After all, this picturesque town has the infrastructure as it is already well set up for holidaymakers and it is surrounded by breath-taking scenery.
There will be another festival next year, and I have already decided that it is unmissable. Before I head back from my wonderful weekend, I ask Marjory if she can recommend some highlights of her reading year.
No, she says, there are too many good books to pick just one or two, but she does want to highlight the body of work of Douglas Skelton, whom she greatly admires for the complexity of his work which she says is clever, complex crime. The writing in Skelton’s Dominic Queste books she likens to the kind of approach taken by Terry Pratchett and she genuinely believes Skelton’s work is deserving of much greater promotion. It’s the mind-set that she finds fascinating – in the doubts and fears contained in a good book, she says, you find the person.
Talking to Marjory is inspirational and I have come away with not just massive respect for this lady and what she has achieved, but with a huge pile of books and an even longer reading list. That’s surely the measure of a successful life in books!