“I used to read to her in the womb”: stories from a characterful Derbyshire book shop

“I was born above my mum and dad’s record shop, called Some Kinda Mushroom in Chesterfield.”
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“When I was about four, they opened here in Matlock, a book shop. They called it Wildlife Books and Gifts. I used to sit behind the counter. So I’ve been serving in book shops since I was four.”

This is Louisa McPhie, owner of the 2nd Chapter book shop in Matlock, answering the question of ‘Why books?’. Her daughter Mia Rogers, and shop manager Megan Chivers both laugh as we picture a four-year-old Louisa peeking over a shop counter. Louisa grins.

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“I used to take books home and read them at night, then put them back on the shelf. I don’t do that anymore by the way.” More laughter. “I’ve grown up with books. I love books.”

Megan, Louisa and Mia at 2nd Chapter book shop, MatlockMegan, Louisa and Mia at 2nd Chapter book shop, Matlock
Megan, Louisa and Mia at 2nd Chapter book shop, Matlock

Chatting to Louisa, Mia and Megan, two things are obvious: the warm humour between them, and their genuine love of books.

Megan cites “Escapism” as her answer. Pauses, smiles, then says “Also, I was allergic to all the food colourings in sweets as a child. Red, yellow, orange, green, pink. And I turned into a horrible person if I ingested it.”

“So I used get bought Puddle Lane books instead of sweeties, by my grandparents every week. So, they started it. It’s their fault.” More laughter.

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And Mia? “Well, it obviously runs in the family like mum said. I’ve always been into reading since I was little. I think, like Megan said, it’s escapism. It’s being able to go to a different world, but it’s really sad when you finish it, because you don’t want it to end.”

Megan, Louisa and MiaMegan, Louisa and Mia
Megan, Louisa and Mia

Louisa smiles. “I used to read to her in the womb.”

Difficult question: favourite book as a child and adult? Megan goes first.

“My favourite childhood book will have to be Matilda by Roald Dahl. I wore my first copy out and had to buy a new one. It literally fell apart in my hands. Adult book? Whichever is flavour of the month, but my favourite author is probably Gail Carriger, who writes steampunk fantasy books.”

And Mia? “Children’s wise, I’d probably say anything Roald Dahl. Matilda. I love Matilda. Adult books? I’d say at the moment it’s A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas. She’s amazing. She’s taking over the fantasy world at the moment.”

2nd Chapter book shop, Matlock2nd Chapter book shop, Matlock
2nd Chapter book shop, Matlock
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“You’re going to have a clean sweep for Roald Dahl,” says Louisa. “And also for fantasy. It’s always been my favourite genre. When I was little my very favourite book was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As an adult, my favourite is Graceling by Kristen Cashore.”

This shop is certainly an escape. Outside, the bustle of Matlock town centre seems softened by the walls of books and the warmth of the chat. Even though the next question causes a three-way exhale of breath: ‘Which book character is most like you?’.

Mia answers. “Her name is Mia. The Nevernight series by Jay Kristoff. I would like to say I’m like her because she is also an assassin, you know. Obviously I can’t live up to that. She’s quite sarcastic, and set in her ways, and I think I’m quite alike with her. And also, she has a black cat. And I do too. So, there you go.”

Megan goes next. “Certainly when I was training as a teacher, Susan from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. She’s Death’s granddaughter, a no-nonsense teacher who doesn’t believe in dumbing down to kids. Quite like her when I was training, but now I’m not so sure.”

Inside 2nd Chapter, MatlockInside 2nd Chapter, Matlock
Inside 2nd Chapter, Matlock
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As the question turns to Louisa, Mia jumps in. “Pippi Longstocking!”. The girls laugh, Louisa responds. “I don’t know if that’s true. I’d like to think I’m like Miss Honey when I was a teacher.”

Mia raises an eyebrow. “I think you’re a bit mad for Miss Honey.” Megan adds “She’s a lot calmer.” Louisa continues. “No, I’m calm inside! I’m just mad on the outside! So maybe, I look like Pippi Longstocking, but on the inside I’m Miss Honey from Matilda.”

Okay. This conversation is already otherworldly, but if you could live in a fictional world, where would you go?

Louisa knows. “I’ll go to Tolkien’s Middle-earth, please. Who do I want to live with? The elves, please.” Mia goes next. “I think I’m going to have to say the Grishaverse, which is Shadow and Bone. There’s different orders of magical people. I just think it’s pretty cool.”

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Her mum Louisa, prompts her. “Which one you going to be?” Mia answers. “I like heart-renders. They can stop your heart.” Her mum narrows her eyes. “There’s a theme here. Assassins. Stopping your heart.” Megan laughs. “I’m slightly concerned for my safety.”

Louisa adds with a grin “I live with her. I can’t sleep at night. I have to lock my door.”

Outside 2nd Chapter, MatlockOutside 2nd Chapter, Matlock
Outside 2nd Chapter, Matlock

And where would Megan live? “I’m going to go with India Holton’s regency Britain. She has pirates that fly houses instead of sailing ships. And they’re all proper ladies that stop and have tea, but while they’re having tea they try and assassinate each other. They’re always stealing from each other while they have tea and cake.”

Okay… And finally, real life… what’s the answer? All three agree there is no such thing as fate. And the other things they agree on says much about what they have created in this shop.

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Megan: “You get out what you put in. If you’re nice and friendly, you’ll get nice and friendly back.” Mia: “Life is what you make it.” And Louisa? “We are here for this speck of time. However, while you are here I think it’s nice to respect people, animals, the planet, so it’s good for the next generation.”

Matlock’s 2nd Chapter book shop: a place of fascinating stories, both in print and natter.