Sunday, January 31, 2010

BOOK: The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald, 123 pages

Bibliophilic Challenge; Booker shortlist 1979

Very short novella about a woman, in 1959 England, who decides to open a bookshop, to ensure "that she existed in her own right". She had lived in the small town for almost ten years, after her husband had died. Ah, but small towns are fickle things, and she encounters some obstacles that she really can't do much about. It's a bit of a sad story, with some interesting characters, and a peek at a life in a different time and place.

The writing is what stands out, because the words are used carefully, and describe a place and people very well, and are used sparingly. Florence isn't the book lover that you'd hope for in a book about a bookshop, but there is a reference to Lolita, as she has to decide if she will carry the book, if it is okay to sell in the small town. However, the book is just too short to get attached to any characters. It's an okay read for me, with a few surprises along the way.

Some lines I noticed and particularly liked:

She drank some of the champagne, and the smaller worries of the day seemed to stream upwards as tiny pinpricks through the golden mouthfuls and to break harmlessly and vanish. p21

She would have liked to have been instrumental in passing some law which would entail that he would never be unhappy again. p47

The teapot basked in front of it, the room grew close, and the difference in age between Christine and Florence seemed less, as though they were no more than two stages of the same woman's life. p65

also reviewed by:
Robin at A Fondness for Reading
Jodie at Estella's Revenge
Susan at You Can Never Have Too Many Books
Eva at A Striped Armchair

I managed 9 novels this January, I really thought I could make it to ten. This year I blame reading a big chunk of The Woman in White, but not finishing it, and since I had started The Jade Peony in December, I couldn't count it either. I had fun though, trying to get the pretty gold badge. The books read in January for NaJuReMoNoMo include:

1. Poppy Shakespeare - Clare Allan
2. Crossfire - Miyuke Miyabe
3. Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
4. Snow Angels - James Thompson
5. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley
6. The Incident Report - Martha Baillie
7. I am Morgan Le Fay - Nancy Springer
8. The Spellman Files - Lisa Lutz
9. The Bookshop - Penelope Fitzgerald


  1. ooooooooh, this sounds gooooooood.

  2. I have always wanted to really like The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald. That's why I wanted to read your review. I think we had the same feelings about the book. I do love all the beautiful quotes you gave from the book. Makes me want to give the book one more try. Thanks for a really good review.


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