Little Bookshop Books

September 14, 2019 at 1:49 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

If there’s any one particular genre I am more drawn to than another, it is the sub-genre of both fiction and non-fiction that is specifically for bibliophiles: books on books, books about libraries, bookstores, and authors. It’s no wonder that my entire adult life has been dedicated to book blogging and book selling, and as an author, it is what I write about as well.

Imagine my excitement when I saw The Little Paris Bookshop arrive at the used bookstore where I work.

It took me a few months before I broke down and bought it. I kept thinking what I think for most contemporary fiction, there will be dozens of these for a dollar in no time. I wasn’t wrong, there are dozens of them floating around for next to nothing in many places, but I was in a hurry and eager to read something I just knew I would love.

It has taken me a few months to write this review, however, now that I have read it. I had to stew. I had to think. Mainly, because I didn’t love it. Not only did I not love it, there were many parts of the book I was on the verge of strongly disliking it. The disappointment was great, but as a writer of the genre, it’s difficult for me to be critical when the idea is so gorgeous but the execution so awful. It’s style and preference and world view affecting my ability to connect with the story. I know that is true of other people with my own stories, but it never makes it any less unpleasant to hear. And this woman has an international book deal, so what do I know?

Technically, Nina George is far more talented than I am, I’m sure. Yet, I floundered and forced myself to read this. I adore the shop itself — Mr. Perdu’s Literary Apothecary is on a barge no less! The opening chapters are beautifully done, introducing our book expert and his customers. It was Manon, the adultery, the awkward sex scenes, and pretty much every other part of the story that kept me dropping the book in my lap, tilting my head back into the sun, and saying out loud, “Really?”

I nearly didn’t finish it. I was tempted to throw it away.

Now, in September (having read it in July), I’m determined to keep it, but only so I may learn from it. I have placed it on a Goodreads shelf I’m building that I’ve labeled toolbox books, things I either purposefully read to utilize for the honing of my craft or am only keeping so I may reference its strengths and weaknesses later while dissecting my own work.

On the flip side, a few years ago, while I was not blogging regularly, I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Despite it’s obvious title and glow in the dark cover, I was completely surprised by the content of the story –Yet I loved it! Every second of it was a delight. The same year, I believe, I read and reviewed Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I cried and cried, it was so beautiful. I could go on listing my favorites: Helene Hanff’s non-fiction collection of real letters 84, Charing Cross Road; award winning Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop; Diane Setterfield’s mysterious The Thirteenth Tale; Christopher Morley’s Parnassus series.

What is your favorite sub-genre? What books have you been disappointed by from this corner of the publishing world? What books moved you to tears?

Permalink Leave a Comment

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

August 4, 2014 at 4:51 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

the_thirteenth_taleTitle: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Length: 406 pages
Publisher: I read from the Atria Books Book Club Edition

The first time I read this book it was July of 2011. I was no longer on maternity leave, but my daughter still seemed very, very small. We were a sleepy household then, despite her running around long before her playmates and peers had begun taking their first steps. I remember mostly listening to this book on audio because I had a hard time keeping my eyes open when I was home – but I wasn’t actually napping ever. It was excellent and I adored it. That’s why I encouraged the HPB book club to read it for our August discussion that will take place tomorrow night (August 4th, 2014).

One of my fellow clubbers emailed me already, saying he only gave the book a 5.5 out of 10. He had questions I can’t repeat in a review due to spoilers. I had meant to take this month off and discuss from memory, but his questions and low rating for a book I remember describing as the perfect tale forced me to pick it up and read it again.

And I discovered that I disagree with him…

I feared I would have my mind changed by time and growth. I feared I would have read so many wonderful things since my first reading that somehow the magic wouldn’t shine to brightly and mysteriously the second time around. I feared the ghost story wouldn’t feel so ghostly, knowing the ending.

But my fears were unwarranted, because I still loved it. I loved it all.

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” – pg. 9

thDiane Setterfield has expert hands. She manipulates words deftly. She takes a reader prisoner with her storytelling. Vida Winter winds herself around your limbs like spider silk and will enthrall you. Charlie will render you so terrified you will not move, except to turn the page; Adeline March will pierce your skin, and become a knot stuck in your throat; Isabelle will enter your blood and startle you; Emmeline will numb your thoughts. It is the best, most believable ghost story I’ve ever read.

Also this week, I’ve watched the BBC screen version of the story. Yes, there were a few things changed, much left out, but overall I was pleased with the production.  We were able to watch it on youtube.

First of all, it was brilliantly cast with Vanessa Redgrave.  I adore her and she is exactly how I imagined someone like Vida Winter to be.  She appears in so many of my literature to film favorites, like Atonement, Howards End, and Mrs. Dalloway.  She’s such a classy lady.  I must say, too, that I think she looks fabulous with Vida’s red hair.

Some people express a distaste for the “name-dropping,” the characters discussing books and how they shaped their lives.  There are a lot of Jane Eyre references.  If you’ve read my book (The Bookshop Hotel) you’d know that I am not one to find this unfavorable.  In fact, that is my favorite sort of  book, and it is in this fashion that I have discovered my most cherished reading experiences: from characters who pointed me in the right direction.  Characters always have more impact on me than real people.  They have no stake in it, I can trust them, they gain nothing by convincing me or failing to convince me to choose a certain book or behave a certain way.  For this I love them.  For this I respect them more than the living and breathing.

Only a character could get me to listen to a ghost story with an open mind.  Only a character can bring to life the fantastical, the magic, the mystery, and the excitement of a ghost story.  Only a character could make me see and understand a ghost.

Do you believe in ghosts?  No? Read The Thirteenth Tale and Vida Winter might change your mind.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment