BY JACKIE KEOGH
LOTS of people took up an open invitation to attend a book launch, which doubled as a farewell party at Whyte Books in Schull recently.
What was special about the occasion was that Elizabeth Murray, who had previously worked in Whyte’s, was launching her first book – a book dedicated to her husband, Mick O’Callaghan, and the village of Schull.
Sheila Whyte, who successfully ran the bookshop for the last four years, also saw it as an occasion to thank the people of Schull for their custom, support and friendship.
Sheila said: ‘It was strangely fitting that my last social occasion in the shop was the launch of Elizabeth’s first book. I had been planning that launch from the first day I met Elizabeth because I always knew it would be a question of “when” not “if” she would become a successful author.’
Elizabeth, who writes as ER Murray, read from ‘The Book of Learning’ and offered a heartfelt thank you to Sheila for her encouragement over the years.
Whyte Books has encouraged more than one person. The reason it was shortlisted for several national awards, and won the ‘Best Bookshop in Munster’, is because it draws readers in and nurtures their love of books.
For any bookshop, there is a skill involved in ordering the right books, but Sheila has demonstrated something more – an innate sense of style. She created a pretty bookshop that appealed, not just to female readers, but men and children too.
A dedicated children’s corner – and ready access to coffee and cake through the shop, including the bistro sets outdoors, and comfy armchairs upstairs – earned it legions of fans. When Sheila announced in March that she was selling the shop, there was consternation because people feared Schull could lose its bookshop.
There was, therefore, a general sense of relief when it was announced that another entrepreneurial woman, Katarina Runske, the owner of Grove House, had bought it.
The name will change to “Anna B’s Bookshop” after Katarina’s new granddaughter, and it will be ‘business as usual’ from the end of October.
‘Everybody loves a happy ending,’ said Sheila, who is now planning to take some time out before she decides what her next project will be.
A sojourn in the impossibly pretty city of Bath is on the cards and, in the case of life imitating art, Sheila said: ‘I plan to draw heavily on Alice Steinbach’s book “Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman”.