Russell Books expands into vintage

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May 21, 2013

Russell Books Vintage Grand Opening
with readings from Esi Edugyan, Steven Price and Marita Dachsel
May 14, 2013

Reviewed by Jenny Boychuk

In a time when many independent bookstores are closing their doors, Victoria’s Russell Books has expanded yet again with the addition of Russell’s Vintage.

Russell’s Vintage (located beneath Russell Books in what was formerly Fort Street Café) held its grand opening recently, featuring readings by local authors Steven Price, Esi Edugyan and Marita Dachsel.

The space filled up quickly as people drank wine and browsed the shelves for vintage gardening guides, cookbooks, magazines, volumes of the Guinness Book of Records, poetry, children’s literature and nearly ancient copies and first editions of their favourite classics. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, and it seemed everyone met someone they knew.

Every seat was filled with many people left standing as event organizer and Russell Books employee Vanessa Herman kicked off the night. She announced that Russell’s Vintage will begin holding a monthly reading series. Next, manager Andrea Minter talked about her family and the history of Russell Books, which was founded by her grandfather in Montreal in 1961. The store (now relocated in Victoria) is Canada’s largest used and new bookstore.

“Books are my life and we are so excited for this,” Minter said.

The space is perfect for a reading, with a small stage at the front of the room, set against a backdrop of antique books. The readings proved fitting for the occasion as each of the authors read about history or the making of it.

Marita Dachsel launched her new collection of poetry Glossolalia, which is essentially a series of monologues written from the point of view of each of Joseph Smith’s 34 polygamous wives. (Joseph Smith was the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

“You always hear about people launching books,” said Dachsel. “But you hardly ever hear of people launching bookstores.”

After an intermission and the cutting of a fabulous cake (an unreal replication of each of the authors’ books stacked on top of each other), Steven Price talked about his and wife Esi Edugyan’s history and love of Russell Books.  Apparently, the couple visits so regularly that the staff is set on adopting their baby daughter.)

“We don’t get out much,” joked Price. “But when we do, we go to three places. Russell Books is one of them.”

Price read from his poetry collection Omens in the Year of the Ox, and from Into That Darkness, his novel about a massive earthquake hitting Victoria.

After more wine, cake and door prizes (orchids, t-shirts, winery tours, books), Esi Edugyan ended the evening with a reading from her novel, Half-Blood Blues, much of which is set in pre-war Berlin.

I expect Russell’s Vintage will see many more nights like this one.


Jenny Boychuk is a local writer and reader.


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