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Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 
Service95 An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 

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An Ode To The Bookshops Of Our Favourite Romcoms 

Growing up, I watched Richard Curtis’ 1999 masterpiece Notting Hill obsessively. The film was, and remains to be, the perfect combination of my favourite romcom tropes: awkward young Hugh Grant, endearing ensemble cast, whimsical big-city setting, imperfect love story, Julia Roberts and, of course, a bookshop.  

For those who have (somehow) never seen the romcom classic, Grant’s character, William Thacker, runs an independent travel bookshop in the heart of London’s most romantic borough, Notting Hill. Stumbled upon by Hollywood royalty Anna Scott (played by the impossibly charming Roberts), the pair begin a whirlwind romance, only for their love to face inevitable obstacles. 

Their unfolding relationship – featuring said obstacles, along with undeniable chemistry – makes for one of the greatest romcom stories ever told: one which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. But it is Thacker’s small bookshop, crowded with disorganised books and failing to make ends meet, that becomes an unexpected hero of the film, its quiet aisles the perfect backdrop for Anna and William’s encounters.  

Of course, this is not the first or last romcom to feature a bookshop as a main character: think Nora Ephron’s eternally heart-wrenching You’ve Got Mail, Netflix’s charming Christmas mini-series Dash & Lily, or even Woody Allen’s dreamy comedy Midnight In Paris – all films which, like Curtis’ Notting Hill, serve as an ode to the romance of the humble bookshop. But what is it about them that we find so deeply romantic? 

Perhaps it comes from the wondrously idyllic act of exploring the cramped aisles, comparing paperbacks and running your fingers along unbroken spines – who wouldn’t want to revel in the intimate oasis of Parisian institution Shakespeare and Company, as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do in Before Sunset?  

Speed-dating blurbs and searching for The One – the possibilities are tantalising, and it’s not hard to see why the bookshop is so often the spot for romcom meet cutes. As Indira Birnie, a senior marketing manager at publisher Penguin observes, this romantic reputation is born out in real life.  

“As a former bookseller, I’ve been witness firsthand to the fact that there really is no place like a bookshop to allow strangers to strike up animated chatter, whether it’s about a shared favourite author, a helpful recommendation to someone in search of their next read, or even a gift.” 

We can’t deny that the beauty of a bookshop perhaps also comes from the nostalgia of physical media. After all, John Cusack in High Fidelity texting a Spotify link wouldn’t quite hold the same romance as him spending the time to make a mixtape for love interest Laura. And Jack Black and Kate Winslet running through the Blockbuster aisles in in The Holiday, sharing anecdotes and favourite film scores, is far more romantic than if they were scrolling aimlessly through Netflix. 

Let’s not forget that the bookshop as a key setting of a romcom is by no means a trope invented by Richard Curtis. Back in 1957, Audrey Hepburn starred as a quaint, intelligent bookseller in Funny Face, and in 1946 Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall teamed up to solve crimes against the backdrop of a library in the hard-boiled romance The Big Sleep. In 2024, the bookshop remains front and centre, taking Netflix’s hit-show teen-romance show Heartstopper as a prime example. 

Like many tropes of a romcom, it must be acknowledged that the bookshop remains a predominantly white space within the genre. Although if current shows such as Heartstopper prove anything, it’s that the enduring motif is being updated for more diverse audiences, as characters include a queer interracial couple, a Black Trans woman and a teenager exploring his asexuality. In the show, the ensemble cast travel on a school trip to Paris, where we see them peruse the aisles of Shakespeare and Company. There, their various budding romantic relationships flourish; characters Tao and Elle flirting with crisp paperbacks in hand while Nick and Charlie take selfies among the books. 

It seems the bookshop is a place we have always returned to within romcoms and in 2024, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. For Birnie, bookshops will always be “inherently romantic places: the smell of all that paper, be it new or vintage, the universally flattering ambient lighting that so often exists in these establishments, delightful architecture from one period or another… Even if you don’t share the same taste in books, a mutual interest in reading is all that’s required to start a conversation that, you never know, could lead to something more.” 

Grace Dodd is a writer and editor based in Manchester, UK. She has contributed to titles including The Face, Vice, British Vogue and Stylist 

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