Book: The bookshop - Livre d'Or








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Book: The bookshop
Monday, 11 December 2006 at 10:15 pm
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Author: Penelope Fitzgerald

Details: (c) Penelope Fitzgerald 1978; Pub Flamingo 1989; ISBN 0-00-65434-5

Verdict: The bookshop is well crafted but very downbeat.

Reasons for reading it: I can't remember whether Fitzgerald is an author I like, or someone with a similar name to an author I like, or someone I've just picked up positive vibes about, but anyway. A vague positive feeling about the author combined with a very enticing title led me to this book.

How it came into my hands: RS has a big hamper of English books that her expat community have read and no longer want, and was very insistent that her Thanksgiving guests should take lots of these books away with them.

I read The bookshop because I wanted something cheering, and a book about a bookshop sounded like just the thing. Unfortunately, The bookshop is a tragedy, about the bookshop and several lives being destroyed. But it succeeds in being sad rather than depressing, and the quality of the writing is cheering in its own right even if the subject matter isn't. It's one of those remote Fenland settings (has anyone ever written a happy book set in the Fens?) with a really evocative sense of place and village life. It doesn't bother with flights of poetry; it's a very understated book, but extremely atmospheric at the same time.

The characterization is marvellous, and there's a lovely inexorability about how thoughtlessness as much as active evil can lead to innocent people getting hurt. It's making some political points, but doing so very subtly and with some really biting understated satire rather than polemic. I think its political agenda is part of the setting (as opposed to simply being dated); the issues are those of its 1959 setting, and I think most of them would have been irrelevant even in 78. In many ways it's a book about poverty, but without any Dickens-style patronizing sentimentalism.

All in all, a thought-provoking book, and it says a lot in a very small space; at 100 pages it's barely more than a novella.


Whereaboooots: Hardborough
Moooood: touchedtouched
Tuuuuune: Indigo Girls: Land of Canaan
Discussion: 6 contributions | Contribute something
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From:curious_reader
Date:December 12th, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC)
29 minutes after journal entry
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I read the Narnia books now. I have finished "The Magician's nephew" and "The horse and his boys" and now reading "The Caspian Prince". I only see the Christian message in the first two "The Magician's nephew" and "The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe". The others sound like normal phanatsie stories with mystical creatures. I always learn new words. Lots of them are connected with the middle ages. I also don't know all the creatures. A "hag" in that book is half-wolf half-human creature which eats people. My own and the online dictionary translates as witch all the time which is not true according to the Narnia book. Anyway, I enjoy the books. They are very exciting and not too long for me.
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From:curious_reader
Date:December 13th, 2006 01:30 pm (UTC)
16 hours after journal entry
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Oops, the Hag was and old witch and the half-wolf creature was a Were-Wolf. I read the story properly now. It is no good just flying over it.
In all fairy tales wolfs are attacking human beings which is absolutely not true except when they have the rabies but then it would be only one and not the whole pack. I saw documentaries where scientist are sitting in the middle of a pack of wolfs and have a good relationship with them.
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blue_mai: default
From:blue_mai
Date:December 13th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC)
17 hours after journal entry, 02:24 pm (blue_mai's time)
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has anyone ever written a happy book set in the Fens?

not outright happy but still one of my favorite childhood books, Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (born in Great Shelford), the Fens very much part of the story. still a book that's very much with me, which i don't think i would have predicted at the time.
(sorry previous html error)
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curious_reader: tiger cub
From:curious_reader
Date:December 13th, 2006 06:08 pm (UTC)
20 hours after journal entry
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I looked it up. I can borrow it from the Golders Green library where I live. They even have a BBC film or series about the story. When I am finished with all my books I might read that. I guess it is not a phantasie story or is it? Years ago some teacher was reading and exiting phantasie story which took place in a garden as well. I left this school before she finished it. I have no idea how the title was. The children did nasty things in the garden and were punished by mother nature. They had to go on a journey underground. Then I don't know what was going to happen. Any idea about that story? If I knew the title I would try getting it.
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blue_mai: default
From:blue_mai
Date:December 13th, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC)
21 hours after journal entry, 06:50 pm (blue_mai's time)
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it is a bit of a fantasy, if by fantasy you mean it's not completely realistic. but it is based in very real things. the only thing that is fantastic is the way time crosses over and stretches, it's like the way time passes when you are dreaming.
the other story you describe i don't know. but it reminded me of 2 other children's stories about gardens i liked when i was younger: "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett (you may find it childish though, the way the characters behave and talk is quite cliched, but i liked all the detail about the plants and the garden) and "The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde (this is very short, so you will probably find it in a collection). happy reading.
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From:curious_reader
Date:December 13th, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC)
22 hours after journal entry
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I know the secret garden as a film and book. It does not sound for me fantastic. The only unrealistic thing is that the robin knows the way to the garden and shows to the little girl.
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