I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre and entered Rochester’s house, Thornfield Hall. Coming from a middle-class family in Nebraska, the middle of the United States, I was enthralled with walking into the drawing room where Rochester lounged in his overstuffed chair with Pilot at his feet.
The same sense of body out of time and place occurred when I read Rebecca and entered Manderley. Even with the foreboding presence of Mrs. Danvers, I was enthralled with the precisely decorated rooms and their sweeping views.
I was recently reminded of these out of body experiences when I read Josephine Myles’ Stuff, which is set in the marvelously tricked out Cabbages and Kinks second-hand store in Bristol.
Being something of a romantic wanderer, I immediately looked up Bristol, a city I don’t think I’d heard of before even though I’ve been to Britain a couple of times and traveled around the country.
In the country’s southwest, Bristol, it turns out, is rife with amazing street art, which absolutely suits Mas, one of Myles’ main characters. Mas is a cheeky gay man whose joie de vivre permeates the entire book and gives the story its carefree character.
However, when Mas stepped into Cabbages, the residence and shop of Perry, my daydreaming began.
Cabbages houses a unique collection of 1920’s to 1950’s fashions, furniture, and bric-a-brac. It even has a jackalope, one of the hybrid stuffed animals made from a jackrabbit and enormous antelope antlers. The fierce and wild jackalopes are staples of Western saloons and Southwestern second hand stores in the U. S. Who knew they had traveled to Britain too?
Mannequins and clothes racks abound in Cabbages and Kinks, punctuated by mirrors, bureaus, and shelving holding silverware, jewelry, decorated jars, and clocks. Wandering amid the aisle-less collection afforded me countless wonderful discoveries.
I was in seventh heaven. I could easily live in Cabbages especially when I read that Perry’s workshop and artist studio were located in the floors above the shop. I would buy one of Perry’s intriguing and complex sculptures in a heartbeat.
Unlike the completely fictional places I’ve visited in my years of reading, I could travel to Bristol and walk the streets looking for a Cabbages equivalent. But what’s the point?
Like Rochester’s Thornfield Hall and Rebecca’s Manderley, Cabbages and Kinks will live forever in Myles’ book and in my heart and mind.
The books mentioned in this post are available for sale from Amazon and other sellers.