Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

The story of a modest dream. A widow, Florence Green, wants to open a bookshop in the small town of Hardborough, in which she has lived for ten years.

After the death of her husband she simply wants to make a living and be independent. However, the decision to open a bookshop without due attention to Mrs Gamart's aspirations proves to be Florence Green's downfall. The former is a well connected and ruthless woman with plans of her own. However, one senses her objection to the bookshop is less significant than her objection to the unyielding FG.

This brilliant little Booker-shortlisted gem shows the best and worst of parochial life. It illustrates how people can be easily swayed with little consideration as to principles. The humour (unintentionally provided by self-important people) and the tensions found in the politics of this small town dictates the tone of this tale.

FG has some significant allies, but disappointingly the majority go with the influential flow and at the end, with a Hardy-esque touch, her arch-defender unwittingly plays into the hands of her arch-enemy. This vivid chapter in the life of a kindly and courageous woman is, sadly, described with great credibility.

Reviewed by Marie Hayward
Published in the Rendezvous magazine
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