There is a peculiar bond that begins to emerge when women meet regularly to read together.  It also becomes a rallying cry when you sit in a cafe and over hear someone say “we are reading such and such in our book club”.  It is as though you could be linked in some way, as charms on a bracelet.  Not that I have every understood why those charm lie side by side together on the wrists of some women.  But they do.

A book group “charm” from Beccles chose to meet the Tavira “charm” in February, to discuss a book that could hardly be called charming.  Around 20 women met in the bar of the Vila Gale hotel in Tavira on the Sunday of their visit and later had dinner together at the hotel.   Before dining they discussed Ross Raisin’s God’s own Country.   

The book is not an easy read, but the Tavira based book clubs which meet at A Lura dos Livros bookshop every month, often choose books with challenging themes.  This book is narrated by a Yorkshire lad, Sam, whose thoughts are often menacing.   It’s a debut book for Ross Raisin, which has caused a ripple in some camps as it skirts around mental health, rape and isolation. 

What all these women have in common is an appreciation for the quiet time they spend alone each month with a new charm for their bracelet, a different book.  There are two books clubs that meet at A Lura dos Livros each month.  One group has been meeting for about 7 years and the other group, started just last November.  Each group operates under its own agreed rules and usually take turns to recommend a book for the following month.  In February, one group read Bespoke by Richard Anderson.  This is a ghost written, semi biographical book, about a Saville Row tailor.  In contrast, the other group read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.  This is a novel by an Australian author that documents his escape from prison and his arrival and life in Bombay.  Some people loved this book; others felt it was self indulgent, with poor characterisation.   

In March, one of the book groups read “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.  This book documents the journey of one man, a mountaineer, to bring schools to the villages near K2 in Pakistan, just as the Taliban rose to power.  Again half the group loved this, whilst some wanted to shake the “hero” for his “bumbling ways”.  The other group read “Middlesex”, recommended by Liz, who found this book compelling as it reflects what it is like to be a foreigner living in a foreign land.  She said “Who can resist a book that begins “I was born twice, first as a baby girl, on a remarkable smogless Detroit day in January of 1960, and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petroskey, Michigan, in August 1975””.  This book, winner of the Pulitzer Prize follows the life of Calliope Stephanides, as she discovers her genetic secret.

And so the charm continues in this little shop, with the owl lamp and the large antique radio, which sometimes plays Portuguese favourites and other times classical music.  In April the chosen books are William Boyd’s,   “Any human heart” and the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”,  Stieg Larsson best selling Crime thriller.

So what is the charm?  It seems to be the combination of a space, that has hosted photo exhibitions, book launches, live music, cosy lighting, comfy seats and people from many Countries of origin, either passing through or who have made the area around Tavira their home.  

In October 2011 there are plans being put in place a relaxed international festival of books, with authors and writers talking about ideas in Lura dos Livros, the library, and café’s and churches around the town.  So another charm is being put on the bracelet, which it is hoped will make wider links with people that read.

There are some great finds in this bookshop, especially in history, gardening and jazz music sections.  Liz Beaupied can tell you more about the book clubs and the wide selection of new and used books (as well as many children’s books, including wordless children’s books that help if you are trying to learn Portuguese) in English, Portuguese and French  languages, contact Liz Beaupied at A Lura dos Livros.  The shop can be found in Rua Poeta Emiliano da Costa 16, Tavira.  Tel 281 323 199.