Against all odds I really liked The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler. Why do I say ‘against all odds’? Well, I sometimes think that books called something along the lines of The Bookstore are a bit of a gimmick. Take Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, as another example. Who’s going to buy books with titles like those? Why, people who frequent bookstores, of course. So you already have a built in audience and a pretty sound business plan.
Enough cynicism. When I started reading The Bookstore, I didn’t think I would like the story: Young graduate student gets knocked up by jerky older man. Depressing. But the truth is, I couldn’t put this novel down. That speaks to Meyler’s abilities as a great writer. Her prose and characters were gripping. Mitchell, the older man, was such a subtle jerk, watching Esme’s relationship with him unfold was a bit like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I was begging for her to leave him and yet I could not look away as things progressed.
A thread of feminism ran throughout The Bookstore. I liked that because all too often feminism has become another sort of F-word, left unspoken in certain company but I think it is something we cannot become complacent about. Throughout the novel Esme seems to struggle with her own feminist conceptions. As an art history graduate student she is well versed in feminist theory but cannot seem to put that theory into action. The ‘male gaze’ is epitomized by Mitchell and yet she is almost unwilling to see that as a fault.
My one complaint about the novel were the occasional rants against Amazon and the rise of electronic reading. These targets are too easy, and let’s face it, regardless of our feelings about them they are part of the literary industry that is not going anywhere.
Who would like this book? Obviously this book is geared towards book lovers, so I am not even going to tread into that discussion. In correspondence to some discussion taking place out in the world these day, I would have to say that this book is decidedly ‘Women’s Fiction’. That is not a name I embrace, or that even interests me, but sometimes we have to give way to current trends. I call it ‘Women’s Fiction’ because it seem altogether too intelligent and well written to be lumped in with ‘Chick Lit’, and yet it is definitely a story about a woman that will appeal most to women. Overall, I think we may see some good things in the future for The Bookstore and Meyler.
* This book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.