Title: The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks
Author: Shauna Robinson
Published: 1st November 2022, Sourcebooks Landmark
Status: Read October 2022 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley
Unemployed and living at home, twenty eight year old Maggie Banks isn’t sure what she’s looking for but she knows she hasn’t found it yet. When her heavily pregnant best friend, Rochelle, suggests Maggie comes to Bell River to help out at her bookstore for a few months, Maggie leaps at the opportunity for a change of scenery.
Though she hasn’t read a book in years Maggie is confident she can handle managing Cobblestones Books, but she isn’t prepared for the strict rules the store operates under. Like most businesses in Bell River, the shop plays a role in promoting the literary legacy of the late Edward Bell, which draws a steady stream of tourists to the town. The store hosts Bell’s writing desk, where he wrote his most celebrated novel, features his oeuvre, and is only permitted to stock classics written before the authors death in the late 1960’s. Adherence to the guidelines of the Bell Society, run by Bell’s descendant, Ralph, who has financial interest in several of the towns businesses including the bookstore, are rigorously enforced and it doesn’t take long for Maggie to run afoul of them.
Maggie is a likeable character, she’s a people person, warm and friendly but also a little impulsive and even reckless. I love her subversive solutions to the store’s financial issues, which include launching a clandestine book club with its own unique twist, but it’s a risky move. Maggie means well but she has nothing to lose, whereas her co-conspirators, and Rochelle, who knows nothing of Maggie’s machinations, do.
Malcolm, Ralph Bell’s assistant, is pretty clear he won’t risk his job for Maggie, even though he is clearly attracted to her. Their romance is a case of opposites attract, and I liked the way Robinson developed their relationship, though I think Maggie does take advantage.
There’s some exploration in the story about the value of classic literature vs genre fiction, an age old debate. I also liked the small thread of mystery involving the authorship of Edward Bell’s famous book. There are some glaring holes in the plot overall though which some might find hard to overlook, but the conclusion is quite satisfying.
A light and engaging read, The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks has elements that will appeal to book lovers, and readers who appreciate a happy ending.
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