Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Jenny Colgan - The Little Shop of Happy Ever After

Given a back-room computer job when the beloved Birmingham library she works in turns into a downsized retail complex, Nina misses her old role terribly - dealing with people, greeting her regulars, making sure everyone gets the right books for their needs. Then a new business nobody else wants catches her eye: owning a tiny little bookshop bus up in the Scottish highlands. No computers. Shortages. Out all hours in the freezing cold; driving with a tiny stock of books... not to mention how the little community is going to take to her, particularly when she stalls the bus on a level crossing...

Comment: Most readers would say that books about books or related to reading can be one of two things: boring or special. I think that, when it comes to fictional stories, the tendency is mostly for the second and in this book I was definitely hoping to be amazed.

In this book we have Nina's story, a librarian whose job ends due to the major cuts being done nationally to libraries and similar institutions. At Nina's library the focus will be given more to the new media form of communication and not as much to the traditional way a library used to work, so Nina's job becomes redundant and only one person of all Nina's co workers will remain. Nina is a book addict so she can't think of anything except working with books. Somehow she makes up her mind about buying an old van she can turn into a mobile book shop because she needs to eat. Using auctions and giveaways is her tactic to have affordable stock.
Nine has her business and she decides to drive mostly through the Scottish highlands, where people are more isolated and where the appeal of a book might suit more people...but will Nine be ready to welcome all the changes this means in her life?

Jenny Colgan is a British author and although this is not my first book by her, I still can't help but notice that this book seemed to be more obvious when it comes to British references. It might help the other book I've read was not set in the UK but... I just think this was very obvious. This isn't a problem but I do admit I was expecting a bit more emphasis on the bookish talks, book references and even Nina's personality but what still remains in my head are al the scenes where one can easily grasp the British mentality and way of life.

Nina is a fascinating character and I was feeling very in sync with her at first because she loved and breathed books and she was shy and struggled to change her views of what a library and a reader are to accommodate the contemporary needs of libraries ( for instance, the need to bring more people by lending dvds and having internet which can disrupt the environment of only readers as I feel at my local library). In fact, I liked this small incursion to the changes in libraries nowadays and what a pity it is some places can't afford to keep things as traditional as they used to be.

When the plot starts to develop and Nina moves forward, she gets the van, she meets new people, she can still perform as a librarian while being a book seller and I liked this aspect of her. Her attitude however, seemed to not always match what the beginning said of her: of course part of the story is how we could see Nina should change and stop being so closed on herself but I kind of liked that side of her. It's nice to see she didn't become a talk show host type of character but the changes in her weren't always to my personal taste but hey, that's just my impression.
One great aspect is the diverse cultural and social themes mentioned, obviously not explored to the maximum for lack of pages and probably because they were not the aim here, but still provided an interesting secondary source of reading material within the plot.

There's a romance in all this, and Nina learns interesting lessons. I think this side of the plot was not properly developed. I actually believe it would have been better to leave it out because they way things happened... or maybe the focus shouldn't have been in what it was but instead in what end up being. The final HEA was sweet but not the most convincing ever.

I did like all the book recommendations Nina does though the book even if some aren't real ones. I liked how Nina still managed to do her goal which was to find a book for every person. It was also very nice she could become part of that community and how suited she was for that life and place. There are many positive elements to make this an enjoyable story but the romance as not done in the best way - in my opinion - and some scenes changing into others wasn't always a very fluid or seamless process.
Just a little perfect detail: in the beginning of the novel, the author leaves a note to readers. This is definitely worth reading and it's a text for nay book lover out there!
Grade: 7/10

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