A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse (translated by Alison Anderson). Europa Editions, 2010.
A Novel Bookstore sounded like the perfect book for me. A budding bookstore and its selectors find themselves the victims of violent crimes of intimidation. Perfect, right? It combines my love of mysteries with my love of all things book-related. Unfortunately, the book about the ideal bookstore was not my ideal. While I enjoyed the notion of creating a bookstore that only sells great novels, the crime angle left something to be desired. A Novel Bookstore began to feel like a diatribe against modern publishing and publicity practices. Again, I agree to an extent, but I felt the book was somehow misrepresented in the description I read. The crimes themselves play a very minor role in the story. There real purpose seem to be to give the bookstore proprietors a reason to reveal all the secrets of the bookstore to a sympathetic detective and therefore the reader.
The narrator, however, is not one of the proprietors, but a disembodied voice whose identity was uncertain through much of the book. Not typically a problem for me, but the general tedium of the book resulted in me obsessing over the narrator. Maybe I’m judging A Novel Bookstore harshly because I read most of it on vacation. Maybe it’s not a vacation book or a tired traveler book. Maybe it's the translation. I’m not sure. All I know is, I did not particularly enjoy this book.
If you’ve been thinking of reading this book on account of the crime angle, don’t bother. If you’ve been thinking of reading this book because of the philosophy and ideas it presents, give it a whirl. I’d love to hear what you think.
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A Novel Bookstore