4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t tend to read all that much contemporary fiction, but what booklover could turn down ‘The Bookstore’, a novel about a quirky bookshop called The Owl? From the very beginning, Deborah Meyler’s writing really appealed to me; there were some wonderful descriptions of New York and she created a brilliant atmosphere.
In terms of characters, The Bookstore had its ups and downs. Esme, the protagonist, is an intelligent young woman: a Cambridge graduate and now a PhD student at Columbia University in New York. However, she is naive and frankly makes some rather odd decisions throughout the course of the book. I suppose with young love comes questionable actions, but she did frustrate me at times. Her boyfriend, and father of her baby, Mitchell van Leuven, is a pretentious bastard in need of a good slap and seriously needed to be brought back to earth. But he is supposed to be that way; the reader is not supposed to like this upper-class spoilt brat of a man-child, who treats women like objects and emotionally (and almost physically) abuses Esme.
Quite frankly, I hope I never have the misfortune to meet a family like the van Leuvens. Esme finally meets the parents, and they are just despicable. Rude, cold, humourless – Mitchell’s father tells Esme to her face that she will never fit in, never be part of the family, and his mother is constantly looking down her nose at Esme.
I felt that the supporting cast was quite strong, in that it was varied if not massively well developed. George, the owner of The Owl, is articulate, witty and flamboyant from the very first moment we meet him. There’s Luke, the brooding, creative and rather mysterious shop assistant, as well as a whole host of other colleagues and customers.
There’s not much of a major plotline, the book is more about Esme going through day-to-day life with this massive, life-changing decision she has made. The Owl is her rock, her place to hide and escape from the upper-class surburbia, SUVs and weekly champagne evenings that would be a life with Mitchell. And although Esme frustrated me at times, and I wanted to slap Mitchell (or kick him where it really hurts), I generally really enjoyed the book. I’d also convinced myself of what was going to happen at the end, how it was predictable etc – and then it didn’t. So kudos to the author for that!