Shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop.
Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too.
Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 176 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: 03/01/1998
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780006543541
Showing 1 - 5 of 8 reviews.
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Review by sandpiper
I picked this book up a while back because (a) the author had been recommended to me, and (b) I'd won another of her books in a ferret-naming competition, so I was keeping an eye out for what else she'd written. I was attracted by the cover, and I love bookshops, so it was an easy decision to buy.Last night, I was struggling with a non-fiction book, and just wanted some fiction which was easy to get into. I chose this one, largely because it was a short book, so I thought we would be straight into the plot. And we were. Before I reached the bottom of the first page, the main character was starting to form in my mind. By the end of the second page, the groundwork was laid for the plot. A masterful beginning.I'm afraid I rather raced through the book, as I was eager to learn how the story progressed. Being set in 1959, there was a distinct class divide in the town, but with hints of the way this was beginning to change in British society. But at its base is a stonking good story, with some characters you are rooting for, some you are booing from the sidelines, and some you can't quite make out, with a good dollop of gentle humour. Recommended.
Review by Zmrzlina
Very often I was reminded of The Remains of the Day while reading this book. There is the same melancholy acceptance of the way things are, though the way may not be fair. But in The Bookshop, Florence Green, the protagonist, does try to change the way things are. The story doesn't relay on Florence Green's success or failure though. It relies on the reader's ability to hold the hope that just because something has always been one way doesn't mean it has to always be one way.
Review by knittingfreak
This is the first book by Fitzgerald that I've read. It's a fun novella that is full of small town charm and wit. Florence Green, a widow, decides to open a bookshop in the Old House in the tiny coastal town of Hardborough. Much to her surprise, she soon discovers that not everyone in this tiny little community is excited about her new venture. It seems that even though the Old House has been sitting empty for ages, once Florence decides to purchase it for her bookshop, others suddenly have ideas for the place themselves. It's not only some of the townsfolk that she must contend with, but she also must contend with the rapper who occupies the Old House, as well. Before you get the wrong idea, the rapper in this case is a poltergeist that isn't too thrilled to have someone living in the house again. But, Florence doesn't let the people or the poltergeist stop her from realizing her dream. After much negotiation with the bank manager, Florence gets the loan and begins the task of turning the Old House into a proper bookshop.The book is full of interesting characters (besides the rapper) such as Christine, the 10-year old girl who becomes Florence's assistant in the store. Like all of the children in Hardborough, Christine is used to hard work and seems older than her years. Mrs. Gamart is the self-appointed matron of Hardborough along with her husband the General. While most of the townsfolk simply think Florence's shop will fail, Mrs. Gamart is openly against the idea. For she has decided that Hardborough requires an arts center, and the Old House is the perfect place for it. Never mind the fact that it has sat empty for years. There's really only a couple people who actually support Florence in her endeavor, one being an eccentric recluse whom she only meets in person once. This is a fun book with great descriptions of small town life in a coastal village and a cast of very colorful characters. I will definitely be seeking out more books by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Review by Lman
With very few words this book sure says a lot! <i> The Bookshop</i> by Penelope Fitzgerald offers, within a slim framework, a tiny glimpse into a fragment of a local community chock-full of small-minded people, and creates a huge impression!When the widow Florence Green - who, in truth, has been existing, rather than living, for the last eight years in the coastal village of Hardborough, East Anglia - decides to open a bookshop in this isolated area, reactions are mixed. In order to succeed at this unusual venture Florence has to overcome a series of obstacles: human, inanimate and preternatural; but chiefly those placed in her path by the district authorities, from her bank manager and her solicitor, to the county society doyenne, Violet Gamart. In what is essentially a concise, but elegantly-detailed construction of Florence's experiences, as she organises the purchase, renovation, opening and daily running of her bookshop, the minutia of life in this damp and dying community also unfolds.This book is probably best described as a sad little tale accentuating, with clever understatement and adroit particulars, the foibles of life in a diminished seaside village – and the endeavours of some of the petty inhabitants to increase, at the expense of others, their inconsequential significance. The genius in the text is the meticulous description of the desultory specifics of local life, thus providing a depth of analysis, intimated delicately between the lines, for the reader to ponder. There is so much more to this tale in what is left unsaid than in what is written. And what is written is just delightful: when Florence sets up in the 'Old House' - named for the fact that it <i>is</i> one of the oldest structures in this already ancient area - the shop is, of course, named "The Old House Bookshop" - how not!This is my first Penelope Fitzgerald – and it won’t be my last. There is an economy of style and degree of skill, in her writing, to depict a mood, an atmosphere, an ambience, that is all the more striking with the brevity of the work. There is nothing uncommon in this small-town situation the author portrays: the fear of the unusual with an intense phobia surrounding any change, any disruption to the status quo. The author has, however, with exceptional ability, created precisely, and concisely, an absorbing tale in regards to such, which is also, on the whole, quite touching.
Review by pokarekareana
I really liked the characters, and the sense of place was good. The plot was a bit slow in places, and I felt a bit disappointed with the ending; I think I would have liked more resistance to the unpleasant behaviour of some of the characters from the protagonist and those around her. It could have been more dramatic, but definitely a great effort from somebody who came to writing late in life.
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