Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan -- Book Review


Hello poor neglected book blog. I could spend paragraphs talking about how my reading life is in the toilet and flushed but I think I'll just try to make a fresh start and see if I can get excited about reading again this season.

I recently read this. I don't recommend it. Find out why below:

From Goodreads: "Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more. Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending."

My Review: I hated this book SO. MUCH.

The best thing about this book is that I feel so passionately against it that it's put me in the mood for writing a lengthy review, which I've not done in quite awhile. I've struggled with whether or not it even deserves a review but I guess I do want to say some things so I'll take the time.

(spoilers below)

I'll begin with the Feminist garbage. Miss Independent ends up sleeping with the guy obsessively for a week or so (and roughly, of course, so roughly that she jokes about needing to go to the, not abusive at. all. Where are you Feminists who care about women's health???? Oh that's right---getting your kicks off of trash like this). Then she decides she wants it to be about more than just the sex but her best friend tells her to stop being so demanding and having such high expectations---be happy with what you have, oh Miss Independent, this is as good as it gets. When they finally do end up taking things further (as in backing up, learning first names, and actually having full-on conversations), it's the MAN who decides when and how the relationship moves forward. Mmm Hmm. Look how free and independent she is! What a role model! Oh, and there's also that part where she and the guy's wife are in the same room together and the wife throws a fit about wanting a book that belongs to Miss Independent. She says, "You can't have that. It belongs to someone else." We are supposed to think Miss Independent is strong and standing up for herself...but the irony is completely lost on anyone who actually enjoyed this story because it's Miss Independent who has taken what belongs to someone else---the wife standing in front of her. Feminist hypocrisy at its finest and it makes me want to throw up.

I hate to make this political but it's got Leftist nonsense from front to back so I spent the majority of my time rolling my eyes. The two kids must leave their mother to the care of social services so they can go "have their lives" at school, even though dying mother wants the comfort of her children near her. Not to mention the issue of family responsibility that is somehow made out to be an unfair burden put on a perfectly capable but entitled almost 16 year old. Yes, this situation needed a solution but there's that "state will fix everything" mentality that leaves a sick feeling. Then there's the foreigner who breaks the law and the rules of his employment and gets deported. This author's answer? Lawyers. Because being disciplined for breaking the law is just not fair. Ugh.

Nina, who is supposedly "mousy", is actually a lunatic with multiple personalities. In the Ainslee/Ben situation, she's way too preachy and meddling, providing very little actual helpful guidance or long term solutions. With Lennox she's a total psycho and acts like he owes her something (plus all the above mentioned puke). With Marek she's melodramatic and hypocritical. In fact, the Surinder and Marek storylines really distracted. I would have loved to have seen her more in the community---instead, her "involvement" is only highlighted after the statement is made about her missing it should she choose to leave. I think it would have made her dilemma much more believable had I seen her actually putting down some roots. Instead, way too much time is spent on these two relationships that actually add nothing at all of substance to the story.

As usual, I also found the foul language to be unnecessary---but apparently it's trendy so whatever.

Were there any redeeming bits? Few, but here they are…

It took a little bit to get into the story at the beginning but by chapter four, I was imagining how I could turn my own car into a traveling book shop. It does sound like a wonderful idea, though that would have had to have been one heck of a wide and long van to fit in all the stuff she talked about, with a story time to boot.

I think the themes of the demise of the "old fashioned" librarians and quiet libraries where people actually go to READ are really fitting right now. Our library recently underwent a remodel and now we've got all kinds of new agendas for our new spaces. The dialogue on pgs. 50-51 is spot on when Nina is being interviewed about how she would make the library work for nonreaders. She's a little dumbfounded and rightly so. Why are libraries worried about catering to nonreaders? That's like a car mechanic providing less services to car owners because they're concerned about pollution. They're shooting themselves in the foot by making the libraries so unappealing to actual readers! We readers want quiet and peaceful libraries with librarians who go around and sternly shush people. We want the struggle of holding in a cough so we don't make ourselves obvious while perusing the aisles. We want to hide the candy bar in our unzipped backpack on the table and sneak a bite when the old battleax in charge is not looking. We DON'T want shelves emptied of classics to make more space for space. We don't want sterile, too bright, too new museums to the memories of what once was where everyone is free to talk at whatever volume suits them and play computer games all afternoon.

Man, this book made me mad in its bad parts and mad in its good parts. I don't know if that's the sign of a great author or a horrible one but I can't imagine picking up another of hers any time soon. Or ever.