11.27.2007

Penelope Fitzgerald's The Book Shop

Fitzgerald's charming novella represents society's aversion for reading as it tells the story of Florence Green's efforts to bring books and a passion for literature to Hardborough, which is a hard borough, indeed. Mrs. Green loves books, and believes that every village is in need of a bookshop, if they know it or not. Yet, despite Mrs. Green's efforts, which include stocking tons of copies of the new and provocative Lolita, the town only becomes more hostile. Mrs. Gamert wants the building that Mrs. Green uses for the bookshop to be an artists center, and other people don't understand why anyone would want to open a shop in a haunted building.
The ending is not unexpected, and the story was a pleasant enough read, although it was slow at points. The atmosphere of the novel is close and prim, and the characters do not leap off the page. The most striking point, and one that resonates with me, as it seems to be true everywhere, was that the characters do not opt against books because they dislike them or do not read them, they opt against books because it's easy.

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