March 6, 2017

Book Review: The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. 

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

I knew this was the book for me when the first pages were solely dedicated to readers and an earnest discussion of reading tips.  Don’t skip this part, dear readers! You’re going to find yourself nodding and chuckling with agreement. For instance under the section titled “Bed,” Colgan writes, “The only problem with bed reading is its brevity: two to three pages and you’re out like a light.”  Under “Book Group,” she commiserates, “If you’re reading this for a book group, I can only apologize and assume it’s 2:15 a.m. the night before the evening.”   

You know you’re going to be in good hands and like her inviting dedication, the actually story part is just as real yet idealistic, romantic, with moments of laughing out loud and yes, lots of BOOKS!  It reminded me of the glorious first 100 pages of The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, before it descended into disappointment. Only The Bookshop on the Corner never disappointed – from beginning to end, I felt I was … at home with bookworm, out-of-work librarian Nina.  I knew her, I was her, and I suspect a lot of voracious readers will see themselves in Nina.

“Nina really loved wet and cold winter days; she liked to sit with her back to the radiator, listening to the rain hurl itself against the windowpanes as if it could breach them; she liked knowing she had nothing to do that afternoon, that there was bread to toast and cream cheese to spread and gently music playing, and she could curl up cozy and warm and lose herself in Victorian London, or a zombie-laden future or wherever else she felt like.”

I always enjoy novels that celebrate reading and highlight its transformative powers, but The Bookshop on the Corner has that extra magic that many in this genre lack.

“...for Nina, whenever reality, or the grimmer side of reality, threatened to invade, she always turned to a book.  Books had been her solace when she was sad, her friends when she was lonely.  They had mended her heart when it was broken, and encouraged her to hope when she was down.

“Yet much as she disputed the fact, it was time to admit that books were not reality life.  She’d managed to hold reality at bay for the best part of thirty years, but now it was approaching at an incredibly speedy rate, and she was absolutely going to have to do something – anything- about it.”

The Bookshop on the Corner is incredibly escapist and makes me yearn to return to Scotland and drive around the highlands with a van full of books – but that’s exactly what I needed. The perfect comfort read.

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