08 June 2004

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Bookshop
Penelope Fitzgerald
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Co. (September 15, 1997)
4/5 Stars

Fitzgerald's novel is reminiscent of one of my favorites, Vita Sackville-West, in her ease of manner with her characters. Fitzgerald knows Florence. . . Steven King (and probably others) says that some of his stories have a life of their own and come to him fully formed and all he does is write them down. Fitzgerald writes as if she had lived the story herself, or has at least heard about it first hand.

The Bookshop is not a "comedy of manners", but there is still an Austin flavor to The Bookshop--it is a softly humorous character study in which not a whole lot happens. Regardless of that, I had to turn the page, had to continue my relationship with Florence and the town of Hardborough.

The plot is simply that Florence, after being widowed, decides to open a bookstore in Hardborough. She's only lived there eight years, and as such is still a newcomer, which might account for some of the resistance met in her venture. Between a poltergeist, an angry Community Chairwoman, a general stubbornness of Hardborough to accept her shop, and normal business woes, Florence finds the path to being a bookseller is not a smooth one. The Bookshop has no great plot climax, no surprises or thrills, no exciting endings. . .it's just life, Florence's life, and as such is a gentle and pleasant read ,though not "light" for it has elements of the tragic to it. I look forward to reading Fitzgerald's other novels.



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