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This was actually my second time reading The Bookshop. When I first read it back in January of 2002, I think I expected it to be some cozy little tale of a woman opening a bookshop. Florence Green does indeed open a bookshop in a small village in England, but Fitzgerald’s story never comes close to being cozy. The first time I read it I was so discombobulated at having my expectations challenged, that I really didn’t take much of it in. Since then I have had it in my head to re-read this one to see what I might have missed. When I stumbled across a copy at a charity shop in late September I considered it a sign and bought it. When I culled my TBR pile to see what I could include in the November Novella Challenge there sat The Bookshop just waiting for me.
I am glad I took the time to re-read it, but I also see why I was disappointed the first time around. In essence it is a tale of a failed experiment (the opening of the bookshop), the limitations of the woman who opened it, and the petty jealousies of the small town crowd who made trouble for her along the way and ultimately got her booted off of her property.
As other reviewers will point out, there is a lot going on in this 123-page novella, but ultimately for me, not enough to make me fully like this book. I kind of like it, but I had a hard time suspending my own personal animus at Florence’s inability to run the shop properly. I wouldn’t have held her failure against her if she had done everything right and failed, but her lack of managerial talent was more than my over-organized brain could handle. Slow to make decisions, sloppy with the accounts, and without proper focus, Florence’s bookshop doesn’t last long. I enjoyed reading it, and some of the characters and scenes in the book will stick with me. But I can’t really muster much in the way of enthusiasm.
November Novella Challenge: 1 down, 3 to go.