Review: The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

Title: The Bookstore

Author: Deborah Meyler

Published: Gallery Books August 2013

Status: Read from August 15 to 17, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I imagine there are few avid readers who could pass up a book set in a bookstore and the Owl is the type of store many wish would exist on their block.

“The store is narrow, about ten feet across, with a central staircase leading to a mezzanine. There are books on both sides of the stairway, in ever more precarious piles, and it is a hardy customer who will pick her way carefully up the stairs to the dusty stacks beyond. Downstairs is a tumble of books that I sometimes surreptitiously straighten. There are sections labeled with old notices, but they flow into each other in an unstoppable tide, so that history is compromised by mythology leaking into it, mystery books get mixed up with religion, and the feminist section is continually outraged by the steady dribble of erotica from the shelves above. When books do manage to make it to shelves, instead of being in piles near their sections, they are shelved double deep and the attempts at alphabetization are sometimes noticeable, with “A”s and “Z”s serving as bookends to the jumble in the center.” p8

Open from morning to midnight and staffed by an eccentric group of people, including two homeless men, the second hand bookstore is a wonderful setting. While it was center stage I read eagerly, delighted by the laconic owner, George and his enigmatic assistant Luke, content to imagine sitting behind the counter with a book in hand while a succession of customers wandered into the gloom.

Esme is The Bookstore’s protagonist. A British PhD scholarship student at Columbia she falls pregnant to her boyfriend, Mitchell. They have been dating only a couple of months and she is worried what the pregnancy will mean to their relationship if she makes the decision to keep the baby. But before she can tell Mitchell (though it is obvious he suspects) he cruelly dumps her and Esme is left reeling. Choosing to have the baby anyway, Esme knows she will need some extra income so she applies for part time position advertised at the Owl.

Sadly I found Esme less endearing as the story unfolded. The bright, articulate woman we are introduced to at the beginning of the story dissolves into the lovelorn victim of Mitchell’s shallow charms, oblivious to his self serving manipulations. The focus on the on again/off again relationship reduces Esme to a caricature rather than a character and I quickly grew tired of her inane interactions with Mitchell.
Unfortunately there is not really any plot to speak of either aside from the anti-love story and the novel’s ending is ambiguous and unsatisfying. I realised, three quarters of the way through, I cared little about Esme and her pining for Mitchell and was simply waiting to revisit the Owl.

That leaves me in a bit of a quandary, there were elements of this novel I liked, the Owl and its characters obviously and even the writing style, but the almost farcical relationship between Esme and Mitchell was an irritant and in the end I can’t say The Bookstore was any more than OK.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lloyd Russell
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 00:03:33

    I agree with you re books about bookstores. Try Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I gave it a solid 3 out of 4. Very entertaining.

    Reply

  2. Chrystal @ Snowdrop Dreams of Books
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 07:47:12

    Interesting… I have heard mixed reviews on this. I’m thinking it might be a “borrow from the library” kind of book, if I ever finally choose to pick it up. I love the cover.

    Reply

  3. Diana Leigh
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 09:58:08

    I can’t resist a bookstore setting either! Too bad this one was disappointing.

    Reply

  4. writenote1
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 12:10:41

    After reading your review, I have to agree with Chrystal. When I read the blurb and saw the cover, I immediately wanted to read it, but now I’m happy to leave it for a maybe. It’s a shame, because I love bookstore settings too!

    Reply

  5. stacybuckeye
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 12:58:45

    It’s too bad the story didn’t live up to the name or cover (which I love!).

    Reply

  6. Emily
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 14:43:32

    Disappointing! I was looking forward to this after your teaser last time.

    Reply

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