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A Novel Bookstore Paperback – August 31, 2010

34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The founding of a unique Paris bookstore triggers jealousies and threats in Cossé's intriguing follow-up to The Corner of the Veil (1999). Former comic-book seller Ivan "Van" Georg and stylish Francesca Aldo-Valbelli team to establish the Good Novel, a bookshop that will stock only masterpieces in fiction, which are selected by a secret committee of writers. At first, the warm welcome of the bookstore results in soaring sales. Then attacks in the press, the opening of rival bookstores, and attempts against the lives of committee members by persons unknown sour the atmosphere for the Good Novel's community of readers and writers. Cossé poignantly depicts characters who have turned to literature for solace against the pain in their lives, creates ongoing speculation as to the shadowy first-person narrator, and furnishes sly commentary about gatekeeping in the literary world. Though purists may be disappointed with the solution to the mystery, there's plenty of food for thought.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Ivan and Francesca’s idea of bliss is a bookshop selling only the finest literature: time-honored treasures as well as overlooked masterpieces, little gems, and innovative new publications. Their dream becomes reality when they open their own shop, The Good Novel, in a fine but unpretentious Paris arrondissement. Their inventory is comprised of recommendations from eight respected authors, an anonymous committee who submit lists of their 600 favorite books. With quiet fanfare, the store opens and immediately achieves great success. Notice is then taken by the mainstream press: Who are these elitists, and how dare they tell everyone what to read? Mayhem ensues. The blogosphere erupts; the Internet roils. Erstwhile competitors spring up overnight, pandering to pedestrian tastes and trumpeting their pseudoegalitarian ideals. Ivan and Francesca stoically try to take it in stride until three of their nominating committee members fall victim to near-fatal accidents. Enveloping this diabolical mystery in a delicate love story, Cossé crafts a luscious paean to bibliophilia, gracefully translated from the French by Anderson. Wry, sly, and coyly seditious, Cossé’s piquant satire is a subtly wrought manifesto against blatant consumer manipulation and media malfeasance. --Carol Haggas


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; 1 edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933372826
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372822
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By reader jane on February 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved the concept of this book, but in the end found it a little dull to read. And without a working knowledge of French novels, so many of the references blew right past me. I'm sure that if you were familiar with all of the book titles and authors they reference, it was a richer read (I did like it when I recognized something, and found it an interesting comment on the definition of "good"). But the suspense part of the story wasn't that well constructed -- a villain who pretty much comes out of nowhere? And it wasn't that hard to figure out who the narrator was, though I suspect that was supposed to be a surprise. And the love story was not very satisfying. In summary: I felt like this book was trying to be too many things at once, and only succeeded at one of those things (taking a stand for the idea that some art/literature is just better than other art/literature - there is no need to celebrate all of it equally; popularity is not an effective guide to "good;" promotion often goes to the marginal; commercial interests can kill good art and those who support it). These are important ideas, and the book did a great job at constructing a way to present them. Unfortunately for me as a reader, it succeeded at making the intellectual theme work, but left the more emotional themes to be less well-developed.
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Format: Paperback
Probably every lover of literary fiction has had a fantasy about creating or finding the ideal bookstore, and the main characters in this novel by Laurence Cosse have created just such a bookstore. Ivan (Van) Georg, who manages a shop called The Good Novel, and Francesca Aldo-Valbelli, the heiress who is supporting it financially, have committed themselves to a shop which is not "an ordinary bookstore...[and] our customers [are not] ordinary customers." A committee of eight writers representing different styles of novels selects the books for the shop, each member having a pen name so that no one, not even other committee members, knows their identities, and the book owners stock the shop with these "good" books. With a choice Parisian location near the famed Odeon Theatre, the shop opens to customers in August. The shop is mobbed from the outset. By Christmas, the shop is a huge success.

But success has come at a price. Large numbers of new customers have ordered pop novels, then failed to pick them up, leaving the shop to pay for them. Nasty comments appear on their internet forum, and a seemingly organized attack is mounted in the press, with accusations of elitism taking up whole pages, At one point the shop is described as a "totalitarian undertaking," an attempt by a small group of elite to control the reading done by the public. Fascist accusations result. Ugly posters are plastered all over town, and demands are made that the shop's financial backer be unmasked. Lawsuits are initiated.

Eventually, three attempts to murder members of the secret selection committee, described in the opening pages of the novel, involve the police.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Vivek Kaushal on November 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
A fun read for those who like the literary world, if a little pretentious at times. I didn't regret the time I spent reading the book, but the end was anticlimatic...sort of philosophical surrender to the same forces that the protagonist defies through the story. Maybe that was the author's message, but it leaves the book in a gray zone between an entertaining whodunit and a long musing on the state of bookselling.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By labfs39 on December 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
Do you stand reading in bookstores until you realize you are now late, and the book is half done? Do you find yourself scanning friends' bookshelves surreptitiously, while nodding at small talk? Do you think some books are better than others? If so, you will probably enjoy this book as much as I did. However, if you think there is no such thing as a "great book" or are a publisher or mega-chain bookstore owner, you probably won't.

Although this book contains within it a mystery, a couple of love stories, and a bit of otherworldly Chagallishness, mostly it is about people who love books. The catch is that these people don't love just any books, they love good books. Often today's culture celebrates diversity by saying everything is equally good. The consumer should decide for his or her self. Differences in quality are minimized, hidden, or ignored for fear of the e-word: elitism.

A Novel Bookstore explores this concept in the world of book publishing, selling, and reviewing. Fed up with the mediocrity and sameness of the mega-bookstores, and even many smaller ones, Ivan and Francesca decide to open the ideal bookstore: one which carries only "good" novels. We are led through their entire planning process. Novels or all fiction? Just classics or also newly released? Only new copies or also used? And above all, who will decide? The bookstore opens with a flourish and attracts both serious readers and the attention of those who stand to lose if some books are deemed better than others.

I found the beginning of the book delightful: a celebration of literature wrapped in a fun mystery-love story. But somewhere in the last third, I began to feel as though the author had lost her way.
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