I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.
Once again, I found myself in the web of one of my favorite genres: novels set in and around a bookstore. If you think these are all copy-cat stories, you are in for a surprise. So far, all that I have read have a variety of situations, characters, and love. According to the biography in the paperback copy, Victoria Henry worked as a scriptwriter before turning to fiction. She lives with her family in North Devon, England. Her novel, How to find Love in a Bookshop is a wonderful story.
The story opens with the founder of Nightingale Books in a little town, Peasebrook. Veronica writes a prologue, “He would never have believed it if you’d told him a year ago. That he’d be standing in an empty shop with a baby in a pram, seriously considering putting in an offer. // The pram had been a stroke of luck. He’d seen an advert for a garden sale in a posh part of North Oxford, and the bargain hunter in him could not stay away. The couple had two very young children but were moving to Paris. The pram was pristine, of the kind the queen might have pushed—or, rather, her nanny. The woman had wanted five pounds for it. Julius was sure it was worth far more, and that she was only being kind. But if recent events had taught him one thing, it was to accept kindness. With alacrity, before people changed their minds. So he bought it and scrubbed it out carefully even though it had seemed very clean already, and bought a fresh mattress and blankets, and there he had it: the perfect nest for his precious cargo, until she could walk” (1).
The story begins “Thirty-two years later…” Julius has passed away, and the baby in the pram is now the owner and operator of Nightingale Books. Of course, every story needs a villain, and he appears as Ian Mendip. On Julius’s death bed, Emilia makes a promise, “‘I’m going to look after it for you,’ she told him. ‘I’ll make sure it never closes its doors. Not in my lifetime. And I’m never going to sell out to Ian Mendip, no matter what he offers, because the shop is all that matters. All the diamonds in the world are nothing in comparison. Books are more precious than jewels’” (8).
From time to time, someone would enter the shop, and connect with another person. Julius himself fell into the literature trap. Rebecca comes into the shop where Julius was working part time during grad school. He made a date to have a pint that evening. Henry writes, “It was twenty past eight by the time he got to the pub. She was nowhere to be seen. […] He ordered a pint of murky cider from the bar. […] At nine, he felt a sharp tape on his shoulder. He turned, and she was there. // ‘I wasn’t going to come,’ she told him. ‘Because I didn’t want to fall in love with you and then have to get on a plane tomorrow.’ // ‘Falling in love is optional.’ // ‘Not always.’ She looked serious. // ‘Well, let’s see what we can do to avoid it.’ He stood up and picked up his empty pint glass. ‘Have you tried scrumpy yet?’ // ‘No.’ She looked doubtful. [ ] // ‘Where are you staying tonight?’ he asked as the band started packing up and tipsy revelers began to make their way out of the pub and into the warm night” (25-26). Julius takes her on a romantic ride to visit the scene of the film Rebecca. Even bookshop proprietors succumb to a little romance.
Veronica Henry has written a wonderful story in How to Find Love in a Bookshop. I have another five or six of these tales, but I will save them for another time. 5 Stars.
Likely Stories is a production of KWBU. I’m Jim McKeown. Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!