A NOVEL BOOKSTORE by Laurence Cosse
If there was a ever a book that expressed the collective booklover’s dream world A NOVEL BOOKSTORE is it. Two literary zealots, Francesca, the socialite, and Ivan, the nomad, discover one another in a bookshop outside of Paris and decide to open the ideal bookstore. The concept of the store, The Good Novel, is simple: the store will be stocked solely with tastefully good novels via an ingenious selection process allowing eight worthy contemporary writers, unaware of each others’ identities, to each select 600 titles that will, without fail, be in stock. Financed by Francesca’s inherited small fortune, the bookshop hits the ground running and immediately attracts a horde of devout followers. Surely every reader of this book, myself included, imagines him/herself as a part of that horde.
However, the success of this bookish utopia does not last. Sub-par writers fueled with envy, publishers motivated by greed and critics driven by pure sloth all stand to fail as The Good Novel succeeds and as a result, they retaliate en force. These retaliations, beginning with seemingly innocuous op ed articles and graduating to full blown attempted murder, are the conflict at the center of the novel. However, the novel is ripe with other thematic elements: romance and fantasy included.
For me, the weakest element of the novel was the romance. Ivan, The Good Novel’s middle-aged primary bookseller falls head over heels early on with Anis (a self-imposed nickname for Anne-Isabelle), a woman with a troubled past who is nearly half his age. Possibly it was the age difference that threw me, or maybe the characters’ contrived loner lifestyle we are constantly reminded of, but the romance between the two, for me, fell completely flat.
However, the portion of the novel dealing with the history of the bookstore and the mystery surrounding the characters and crimes was completely engaging. Cosse conjures a store with an intricate makeup and backstory that is both sensical and ideal to her readers. The Good Novel is any booklover’s dream shopping haven and I found myself constantly jotting down authors and titles to sample.
A final point of note on A NOVEL BOOKSTORE is the narrative style. Conveyed in first person, a narrator not fully revealed until the final stages reminds the reader of the personal connections one has with a bookstore of this conceptual magnitude. The narrator imposes its presence at times and pulls back at others, but ultimately adds a great deal to the final product. The narrator becomes a new characters whose history and positions the reader cares about and is interested to discover.
A NOVEL BOOKSTORE is a treasure for any lover of good books. Not only is it an indulgent treat in a fantasy bookshop setting, but a persuasive treatise on the state of for-profit publishing today. Via the fictional haven The Good Novel, this reader is reminded and encouraged by her passion for good books.