Island Books to relocate to Gozo due to ‘rampant development’

Liz Groves’s beloved and idiosyncratic second-hand book store will be moving to Gozo as its owner grows intolerant of overdevelopment that is “destroying” Malta.

Liz Groves's Island Books, in Mosta, boasts over 20,000 titles.
Liz Groves's Island Books, in Mosta, boasts over 20,000 titles.

Mosta's beloved second-hand book store Island Books - run by British-born Liz Groves - will be relocating to Gozo as its owner feels that overdevelopment in Malta is "destroying" the island.

Groves, 64, whose shop is currently situated in the Mosta home she shares with her husband, says that while "one expects a certain amount of development, given the large number of empty buildings, there can be no excuse for the constant destruction of our vernacular architecture".

"Our village cores are being totally destroyed. I could accept internal changes as long as the facades are retained. As we are pensioners we hope to find somewhere in Gozo that will remain unspoilt for the time we have remaining," Groves adds.

Island Books originally grew out of an animal charity bookshop Groves opened in 1975. The book store as it is now was first opened in 1991, and has since become a haven for book lovers - and especially Arts students - looking for a wider selection than what's available in mainstream book stores.

"I feel that Island Books is the only shop on the island that can offer true diversity of titles that would appeal to the more adventurous reader," Groves says.

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"If best sellers are your thing, great, there are plenty of stockists. However, if foreign titles are available in translation, one should be able to find them without having to go online and pay the postage involved. This also refers to art in all its forms, including graphic design, film, music and theatre.

"Why should people be limited to the artists, performers or directors that are familiar to the average person? I am always being told by customers that when they ask for well-known authors or titles elsewhere they are met with blank faces.

"So possibly, being a 'book dealer' rather than a 'book seller' helps..."

As is well known to Groves's many regular patrons by now, the 'Island Books experience' isn't just limited to purchasing books - off-the-wall and interesting as some finds may be - but it also invariably involves making friends with the voluble Groves, who is known to generously dispense with colourful life stories while customers leisurely browse through her 20,000-strong store.

Which means that the move to Gozo will undoubtedly be met with some dismay by local book lovers who have formed something of an emotional attachment to the store.

Groves, however, is confident that Island Books will continue to do what it does best, despite its location.

"Island Books is a combination of environment, stock and owner. This can be placed anywhere and become, I trust, attractive... though this is arguably no longer possible as regards the owner..."

An official date for the move is yet to be set, however, and Groves teases that meanwhile, "there are a lot of bargains to be had..."

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