Riviera Insider meets Lin Wolff, the owner of the English Book Centre in Valbonne.
What first brought you to the French Riviera?
My family and I lived in England for over 20 years and I became fed-up with the weather in the very wet winter of 2000. We had good friends here and this suddenly became our ‘next great adventure’. We bribed our two children with a swimming pool and they gave up their friends and security to come here. It seemed important for them – and for us – to learn a new language, and to see the world slightly differently.
How did you come to run the English Book Centre in Valbonne?
During my first few years here, and after spending lots of time and money in the bookshop, I finally worked up the courage to ask Jill, the owner, if she ever needed any part-time help. At the time I asked she didn’t, but within two weeks the job became available! It always pays to ask!Even though in my previous roles I had worked in documentary filmmaking in the US, for Disney and National Geographic for instance, I had not worked outside the home for 20 years, so I didn’t really feel very employable. However, I’ve always read a lot so working in a bookshop made sense. After five years of working part-time, I was offered the chance to buy the bookshop. I jumped at it! What a better way to spend a day than being around books. I love it.
You promote many local, Anglophone authors. Do you have any recommendations?
We are an English bookshop, and have been for over 30 years – I’m the fourth owner – so I feel that I’m carrying on a tradition, and, at times, fighting the good fight. We especially love books set in France, and particularly our part of France. I would say that if you haven’t tried Martin Walker’s Bruno Chief of Police series or Peter May’s books set in France then you are missing out. Our lovely Opio resident, Michael Nelson, has recently published a history of the Riviera in English. Non-fiction books about France (in English) are particularly hard to find, so Michael has done us all a big favour with his history work. Maureen Emerson, who has written about the two extraordinary women who lived in the houses just above the Opio roundabout in Escape to Provence, is bringing out a new book this spring about Barry Dierks and the fabulous homes he created here on the Côte d’Azur.
Can you tell us about your book club?
The book club meets above the shop once a month on Friday evenings, and it’s quite an international group. Recent titles, which have varied in popularity, are At The Existentialist Café, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Hidden Figures, My Brilliant Friend, and Eileen – all very different books. Of course, there is always wine involved during the meetings! It’s a friendly group and welcomes newcomers. We are open to any other groups wanting to meet, whether book clubs or not – just contact us, we can provide a small space for you! We also have piano lessons and English tutoring going on upstairs during various times of the day.
When you’re not busy with the bookshop, where do you like to spend your time in the region?
I do need to ‘escape’ sometimes from the bookshop and home, so I usually go up towards Gourdon. I just love the drive up there, and the feeling of ‘otherness’. I also love the Fondation Maeght –I think it’s my favourite museum. It’s so relaxing and informal, it’s almost an un-museum.
The English Book Centre in Valbonne often hosting book signings, talks, lectures and literary lunches. Follow Lin and her team on Facebook to find out when the next events are taking place.
*Originally published in the January-February 2018 edition of Riviera Insider (#176)