Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

Who could not read a book titled The Bookshop? And more importantly, who could imagine the people of a town not actually wanting a bookshop in their town? But that is what happens in this short novel. Florence Green buys up property in a small East Anglian town with the intention of turning it into a bookshop, which she does succeed in achieving. But she is challenged at every step by the inhabitants of the town, the main mover of which suddenly decides she would like the building to be an arts centre for the town, even though the building has been empty for a long time.

And that really is as much as I think I can say about the story. Any more would ruin the story, and leave nothing for anyone to find out for themselves. But it wouldn't really matter because the book is more about the atmosphere and mood created by the author, and the characters in the story. The closed minded population of Hardborough are brilliantly evoked, even though they are only really sketched out. The novel is not long enough for them to be fully fleshed out characters, but by the descriptions of their actions, and the words they use their characteristics become obvious.

All throughout the novel, Florence's attempts to make the bookshop successful are thwarted by these people, who all in their very different ways, conspire against her to ensure her venture is doomed to failure. This failure is an ominous presence throughout the story, and the ultimate betrayal inflicted upon her is connected to her biggest success with her bookshop (a highly controversial novel).

I really enjoyed this book. It was a interesting portrayal of the damage a closed community can do to an outsider, or someone who wants to change things in their staid little town. And the tragic ending was poingnant and sad, but it really couldn't have ended any other way. I will be reading more by this author in the near future.


Dot said...

This sounds very interesting, I haven't ready anything by Penelope Fitzgerlad but I shall keep my eye out for this one!

Jo said...

I'd never heard of her until I saw this in the library. It was the title that swayed me to pick it up, but it was really good!

Lesley said...

I've owned this book for a couple years but have yet to read it. I put it on a couple challenge lists this year (including my own) so I hope to read it soon! Glad to hear it's a good one.