La Belle Adventure – A new European Graphic Novel bookshop in Edinburgh

Joe Gordon explores Edinburgh’s newest comic shop…

La Belle Adventure
Bookshop dedicated to French & European comics/graphic novels
From Wed. to Sat. 10:30-18:00 | Sun. 13:00-17:00
225 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 8NX
Co-owner Anabelle Araujo outside La Belle Adventure, Edinburgh | Image: Instituit Francais

A few weeks before Christmas, I went with my French chum to the Institut Francais D’Ecosse, on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, right next to Saint Giles Cathedral in the heart of the historic Old Town. They were hosting a festive fayre, and among the various small businesses such as Chez Roger (a small but enticing French deli near my bookshop in Edinburgh’s Holy Corner) and makers (everything from hand-crafted jewellery to wonderful fabric creations) there was also a stall from La Belle Adventure, selling European graphic novels in both French and English.

Naturally this drew my attention, and I found a lot of titles and names I was familiar with from my own reading, and also from the old European Correspondent column that my Belgian friend Wim Lockefeer used to pen for us back in the Forbidden Planet International Blog days. I got to chatting with the couple, Annabelle Araugo and Benoit Guillox, who were running this stall, and they told me they were also doing pop-up stalls regularly at the Leith street market and the Stockbridge market at weekends in Edinburgh, while searching for a location for a permanent home.

Considering there is only so much you can carry to these kinds of temporary venues, stock-wise, as I know from personal experience, having manned many a book table at various events over the years, they had picked out a nice, diverse array of titles, including a number I had read in English translation, such as the fabulous Blacksad series, and my personal favourite French comics creator, Jacques Tardi, with the range of translations of his work that Fantagraphics have put out. As I am still trying to improve my French, and as my reading comprehension is better than my spoken French (when reading I can take it at my own pace, in conversation I start off okay then it all gets too fast for me to follow!), I opted to buy a couple of hardback, French-language bande dessinee albums from them as a treat to myself.

Fast forward a few months, and La Belle Adventure has a permanent home now, in a small bookshop on Leith Walk, not far from the Out of the Blue Drill Hall venue (which has hosted some good comics fairs among many other events), handily close to the tram for easy access. This also puts them within short walking distance of the excellent independent bookshops, Argonaut Books and Typewronger Books in that part of the city, so that’s another win for readers, in a city that is satisfyingly provided for in terms of Indy bookshops.

Our weather, even by Scottish standards, has been pretty dismal for the most part in recent weeks, and it was absolutely torrential on my day off, when I went to check out the new shop, then in only its second week. It was midweek and monsoon conditions outside, but I had a warm welcome from Annabelle and Benoit, and spent a very pleasant chunk of the afternoon chatting to them about the new librairie, and of course we talked a lot about both older and newer comics works we had enjoyed, while I had a good browse around the store.

The titles are in both English and French, with publishers from Europe, like Casterman, the UK – plenty of SelfMadeHero titles! – and North America (step up, Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly). However the focus is on creators from Europe, including the UK. There were a lot of creators I was not only aware of, but many that grace my own, overloaded bookshelves – the aforementioned Tardi, naturally, the brilliant Bryan Talbot, Scotland’s own Metaphrog (highly appropriate given they comprise a Scottish and French creative duo!), classics many comics readers will be familiar with, such as the Metabarons, as well as manga, and works for younger readers (I smiled on seeing little figures of Lucky Luke and the dastardly Daltons on a shelf next to some of the albums).

Obviously, I wanted to continue to support this new venture, and I was looking to add some titles to my ever-expanding To Be Read pile (now grown so large I fear it may require planning permission from the local council). Since my own collection of translated works in English is already fairly well developed, and as I am continuing to try and practise my French skills, I had decided I would be buying titles in French. Since I have some of the classics by Tardi, Moebius et al already in English language editions, it seemed more sensible to pick up something completely new, so I sought some advice from Annabelle and Benoit on newer works, which hadn’t yet been translated, and which I could consider.

We looked through several, and I ended up opting for two very different hardback albums that were recommended to me. Jade Khoo‘s Zoc, a gorgeous looking, colourful piece about a young woman who has water which flows from her hair, and which is clearly influenced by the wonderful Studio Ghibli, and, at the other end of the spectrum, La Route (The Road), a graphic adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s famous post-Apocalypse novel, by Manu Larcenet which, despite the sombre colour palette (appropriate given the nature of the tale), uses some amazing comics artwork and some terrific variation in panel layout and perspective to draw in the visual eye.

Both of those titles were published by Dargaud, and join two Glenat publications I bought from them a few months back at the Institut Francais, Timothe le Boucher‘s 47 Cordes, which was again recommended to me as an interesting recent work from a newer creator that I wasn’t familiar with, and Joe La Pirate (how could I resist a title like that?) by Hubert and Virginie Augustin.

Of course, you are under no obligation only to read in French – La Belle Adventure has plenty of excellent European creators available in English, in all genres, adult and children’s books alike, and they are very happy to advise you on possible reading.

The duo remain involved in not only selling but promoting our beloved medium, being involved in drink and draws and other comics events in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In addition to helping organise the recent La Monde Sans Fin exhibition at the Institut Francais in Edinburgh (see our review here), Annabelle showed me the small back room to the bookshop, which they are planning to turn into a comics art exhibition space, which is also welcome news. When I visited, it was only their second week of being in the shop, so they are still waiting on more titles to be delivered, and while they have carefully curated a diverse mix of works to start with, they will be looking to see what readers are most interested in and fine-tuning it in response.

It’s a terrific new venture, and I wish them every success, and commend any comics lover in, or visiting the city, to take a trip to visit and support them.

• You can follow La Belle Adventure on their Instagram page here, while the shop itself can be found at 225 Leith Walk, open Wednesday to Saturday, 10.30 to 6.00, and 1.00 to 5.00pm on Sundays

Follow Anabelle Araujo on Instagram

Follow Benoit Guillox on Instagram



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1 reply

  1. That’s great, one more reason to visit Edinburgh then 🙂

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