The Bookshop – Penelope Fitzgerald

This is the story of a small town in the late 1950s where a resident Florence Green against the wishes of many others decides to open a bookshop in the town. What results is a battle between the people who have standing and connections and the ordinary folk who enjoy using the bookshop.

Penelope Fitzgerald’s short book, less than 160 pages is rather a bittersweet tale of a battle of wits it has eccentric characters, a supernatural presence rapping in the building where the bookshop resides and scenery and location described beautifully. The character of Mrs Gamart is an irritation who thinks nothing of people’s feelings whilst she goes out of her way to get what she wants. Christine, the young girl who helps Florence in the bookshop, is like a breath of fresh air in the town for she will be the next generation but even she has to admit defeat in the face of Mrs Gamart. Florence Green herself, quiet and unassuming can soon put people back into their place but it is not strong enough for the will of Mrs Gamart who finally succeeds in her mission.

Despite being a very short book, it felt much longer. You really have to read and linger on each sentence, paragraph and page to get anything from the book as well as the enjoyment of reading it. For that it is worthy of more than one read, because I feel I would get more out of it second time round.  A book with a lot of sadness and somewhat black humour in dealing with small town politics and small minded town folk which will evoke differing feelings I am sure on a reread.

I picked up this book because of reading other people’s book blogs, and on the one hand I am glad I did as I would not have done so. It has introduced me to another type of book; short and where the action is not necessarily jumping off the page but the words and its structure are. I think the last time I was considering such a thing was at English Literature A Level, where I only achieved a D grade. 

I am definitely going to reread it, because as I finished the book I did think that perhaps  I was missing out on something, and it had passed me by. However upon reflection after two days before I sat down and constructed my review I realise that it had not passed me by but lingered more thoughtfully. 

The cover at the top is the actual book I got from Amazon not the one advertised on their page 


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