In the good books of the English Library at St Paul’s Monaco

One of the best things in the world is to curl up somewhere comfortable and open a book. Kindles, tablets and all the other electronic paraphernalia that intrude upon our lives have their place (I’m not a total Luddite!), but books are special, more tangible, and have been with us longer.

Reading the story is, of course, the climax of any relationship with a book, but there is also the excitement of choosing. Wandering round the library, picking up a volume, reading the blurb, deciding whether this story or that one will keep you enthralled until the last word.

The English Library at St Paul’s Monte Carlo, on avenue Grande Bretagne, started quite some time ago by Baroness Orczy, originator of the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel. (You can see her bust on the top shelf of the first bookcase as you enter the library.) She and her husband, Mr Barstow, had a villa in Monte Carlo, and spent every winter there, as one did in those days, and were both very involved with the fundraising and building of St Paul’s Church.

St Pauls Monaco LibraryThe library is nonprofit and run by three volunteers, including Wibha Lele, pictured.

In the beginning, the meeting room or Church Club, as it came to be called, was a place where English maids, valets and chauffeurs working in Monaco, as well as crews from visiting British ships, could get together to play games, dance to the gramophone records and enjoy some light refreshment. There was always a selection of English papers and magazines available for the habitués. One can imagine that perhaps one day, the Baroness, being an authoress herself, had the idea of providing a few books as well, and so the library was born. It was apparently very popular.

The library has been around for a long time but that doesn’t mean that the books are ancient and falling apart. There are some old books, rather interesting ones in fact, but about 30 new books are bought every two months or so, which make up the 4,000 both fiction and nonfiction in the collection.

Why not drop in and have a look round? And if you like what you see, become a member. You’ll always get a warm welcome.

Open Saturday, 10h30 to12h, and a year’s subscription is €30.

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