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Tea in the Library Paperback – March 21, 2009
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This is Ms Freeman's story of her venture into small retail business. While it is focussed on Tea in the Library, it touches on other parts of Ms Freeman's life, dreams and achievements. I enjoyed this memoir enormously: I have similar memories of bookstores in Launceston, Tasmania. In reading about Ms Freeman's research, I also recognise other favourite bookstores. This made reading the memoir a more personal experience for me and increased my enjoyment of it.
I think, though, that Tea in the Library will appeal to a variety of readers. Certainly, those of us who enjoy books and have thought about the bricks and mortar bookstores we visit will be interested in Ms Freeman's experiences. Ms Freeman asked herself: `How hard can it be to run a successful small business?' Unfortunately, it was harder than she initially thought. Ms Freeman wrote this book as a cathartic exercise after Tea in the Library closed, which seems to me to be an entirely appropriate way to close this particular chapter of her life. More importantly, it makes Tea in the Library - both the dream and the reality - accessible to many of us who never experienced it firsthand. Opening a bookshop café may have been a dream that was only realised for a short period - but at least it was.
Ms Freeman tells a true tale of following her dream to own a unique and successful bookshop in the heart of Sydney's CBD. A lover of books and many other things including travel she knows what she wants. In her many travels she visits numerous bookshops around the world identifying what works for her and what doesn't and what she believes will set her bookshop apart. No one could ever accuse the author of not doing her due diligence.
Once launched Tea in the Library experiences a degree of success but it is also thwart with many challenges. As wonderful as the dream is, and enjoyed by many people sadly, after two years the reality has to be faced that it is not financially sustainable and the author has to close shop.
This is not one of those ra ra books that tells you all things are possible and if you follow your dreams they will all come true. IT'S ACTUALLY REAL.
Taking the journey with the author in no way leaves one in despair or hopelessness. Quite the opposite actually. One can't help but be comforted, even inspired, by the courage and risk-taking as well as how the author faces the obstacles along the way. Most of all you will appreciate the honesty in this memoir.
As with all ventures in life, lessons are learned and observations made. These are not only helpful to the author but also the reader.
What we come away with is not only an understanding that Ms Freeman is a devoted booklover but also a talented writer. One finds this also in her other books. As one reviewer has said of her most recent work "The Bright Side of Life", A.L. Freeman’s writing is outstanding in both the writing and characterization."
Tea in the Library is a pleasant, enjoyable and easy read. Recommended.
Ostensibly about the many trials of running a small business, "Tea in the Library" really deals, in an intimate but not mawkish manner, with the author's journey--including literal journeys to the Himalayas and the Antarctic--to a fuller understanding and a greater acceptance of herself. Forced to develop and implement a business plan, learn the complexities of the bookselling business as well as how to run a café, and grapple with the practical and emotional difficulties of hiring and, unfortunately, firing employees, Ms. Freeman found herself a much stronger and more confident person at the end of the process. As she notes, although she had become a partner in her law firm, the experience of opening, operating, and then closing Tea in the Library helped her realize how very far she had come from the young "Tazzie" (Tasmania-born) woman once almost too shy to answer the telephone and the young lawyer who wrote letters in longhand because she was afraid to expose her inexperience by attempting to dictate them.
"Tea in the Library" will be of interest to a wide variety of readers: book lovers certainly but also persons interested in running small businesses and those with an interest in Australian life and culture. However, "Tea in the Library" will appeal most to the many readers who, like Annette Freeman, wonder how far they can press their perceived limits, whether those imposed by society or by themselves. As Ms. Freeman discovered, and as she expresses so eloquently in this well-written and beautifully illustrated memoir, those limits can be pressed very far indeed. For that reason we are, as she is, "grateful that Tea in the Library has been part of [her] life."
Pour yourself a good cup of tea, curl up in a comfortable chair, and lose yourself for a few hours in this wonderful "Library."