The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

(No Series)

In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop - the only bookshop - in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town's less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors' lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence's warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn't always a town that wants one.

The back of this book says that The Bookshop was 'shortlisted for the Booker Prize (whatever that is), but unfortunately, to me, it sucked. I'm the first to admit some books are a bit over my head or I don't always get it, but in this case, I clearly GOT it, it just wasn't that good. I would have dished out two stars too, but the ending ruined that and left me in a bad mood.

The main reason this book almost didn't get finished (I would have abandoned if it wasn't so short), is that it was boring. Seriously boring. I was excited about a book about a bookshop. I love small towns. I love elderly women wanting to open a bookshop. I love shop rivalry. So what was missing? Any interest. The writing is dry and not to my tastes. This didn't help at all, but could be overlooked if the story actually had anything happen in it.

There are short bouts of humor I appreciated and enjoyed, but overall it's lackluster. The ending is a mega letdown too, not just because life can suck for fictional characters as well as readers, but because: the most hated woman in the book gets her way and never gets whats coming to her; someone who stands up and does what's right and sweet (heart putter) doesn't get acknowledgment, and in fact the heroine never even learns he stood up for her... what's up with that?; there is a double betrayal for no reason I can see; the heroine is a sweet woman who's doing what's right but that doesn't matter.

The heroine is likeable enough, I suppose, but there's no solid reason for wanting to open a bookstore in the first place. She does not even, to me, seem to be that big of a book lover. She also has little fight in her. The town is narrow-minded and bigoted, which can be interesting in itself and loan a decent story, but here it just felt pointless.

There's nothing going for the book. I wasn't interested in the story despite trying with best efforts, the end was a let down, the beginning slow, the middle without direction. There is no climax either. It's seriously just 'suddenly there'. There's really no point to the novel - it's not even a book about failed dreams or anything really, or life lessons learned, it's just a depressing turnout that's not fair and not fair to read about. Even the assistant who the heroine cares for...well, I don't see what's so great about the 11 year old. She seems rude and distasteful to me.

I did enjoy the small section for Lolita with the display and letters written back and forth about it. Cute stuff.

Obviously this isn't a book I can recommend. I wish it were, though, since I usually dig bookstore and library settings.

   Book Quotes:

“Surely you have to succeed, if you give everything you have.'

'I don't see why. Everyone has to give everything they have eventually. They have to die. Dying can't be called a success.”

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