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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I noticed that several readers objected to the bleak ending of this book. Fortunately or unfortunately, I already knew the ending because it was given away in one of the New York Times reviews (don't they tell them not to do that?), and so I was prepared for it. Ms. Fitzgerald seems to me to be a genius: She is almost uncannily observant in terms of both landscape and...
Published on May 11, 1998 by Claude Rawlings

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Sad Vignette
"The Book Shop" is not really a novel, but a tiny microcosm of a time and place long gone and yet still unfortunately true--a small English coastal town in the late 50s, where the efforts of one spunky widow to open up the village's only book shop are menaced by one nasty bully in the form of the town's most influential woman.
In very few words, Penelope...
Published on July 16, 2004 by Wendy Kaplan


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, May 11, 1998
By 
Claude Rawlings (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
I noticed that several readers objected to the bleak ending of this book. Fortunately or unfortunately, I already knew the ending because it was given away in one of the New York Times reviews (don't they tell them not to do that?), and so I was prepared for it. Ms. Fitzgerald seems to me to be a genius: She is almost uncannily observant in terms of both landscape and character (including animals in the latter), and she provides a smooth and pleasant read in the tradition of Anita Brookner, Elizabeth Bowen, and Elizabeth Taylor -- a perfect book for a rainy Sunday and, for me, as satisfying as a pot of good English tea. A bit too much cuteness creeps in at times ("a bit twee," as the English would say), and I found the poltergeist not convincing. (However, I was interested to read in Amazon.con's interview with the author that the poltergeist was based on an actual experience of the author's in a real-life small-town bookstore.) All in all, I belive Ms. Fitzgerald will be a wonderful discovery for almost anyone who loves English literature.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small-minded pettiness, October 25, 1998
By 
fbm@northnet.com (potsdam, new york) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
I had previously read, and been most disappointed by, Penelope Fitzgerald's novel The Gate of Angels. Thus, it is only because of its strong recommendations and very short length (if it's too bad, at least I won't waste a lot of time reading it) that I took up her novel The Bookshop. Dickensian in the naming of places (the book is set in Hardborough, which it certainly is) and some characters, but not in length (only 123 pgs), Lively tells the story of a middle-aged widow who invests her small inheritence in a bookstore, the only such enterprise in her new hometown. In so doing, she makes a few enemies, and is at last forced to succumb to the small-minded pettiness that rural communities can foster. This is a sad book, and it makes one grieve for how mean people can be when they wish. That said, it is an excellent novel, and ample food for thought
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly Crafted Story About The Human Spirit, January 18, 1998
By 
R. Platten "rsvpdock" (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
One of the ten best books I've ever read. The characters are drawn in just enough detail to be recognizable; the contrast between goodness and mean spiritedness is clear, yet all the characters are flawed. A poignant story with a powerful message that stays with you long after you've read this book. The Kirkus Review said something about it being not as deep as The Blue Flower. I disagree completely. This book is about real life, not about some ethereal vision.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What good writing should be, September 12, 2005
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
This is a perfect novel. Fitzgerald, whom I was only recently introduced to, writes with precision and grace. In The Bookshop she exposes the small-mindedness of people in provincial places. In Hardborough the townsfolk are cruelly reminded of their relative irrelevance and, rather than stretch toward loftier horizons, they take aim at the book's protagonist and quash her dreams. A piercing stab at all that is colloquial, this book is also a funny satire of small-minded people. I'm surprised Fitzgerald is not more widely read on these shores (U.S.). What a talent.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful short story., August 10, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
Florence is a lovely woman who wants to provide a service to her community while occupying herself during those lonely days on the island of Hardborough. Her husband has been dead some years, and she evolves a woman capable of taking care of herself.
She makes mistakes but also makes smart decisions. Her biggest error is that she fails to recognize that she is not just in the book business - she is in the people business too. It would have been interesting to rewrite the story with Florence being more sensitive to her neighbors weaknesses and vulnerabilities. She certainly could have made a success of the business if she had not isolated herself from the community (Although it seems many of the folks in Hardborough preferred the solitary life). It would have been fun to see her do more networking.
I thought it was beautifully written and bittersweet. At the end, Florence survives. All of us have failures to deal with and the good news is that Florence will continue to live the remainder of her years with the courage that she started the bookshop with. Why is it impossible to belive she might use that courage to be successful in another venture.
So, I did not find the story as depressing as others. In some ways it was uplifting knowing that there are certain things that nobody can steal from you. I recommend the book.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one with plot as well as brilliantly drawn characters!, February 12, 2000
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
Fitzgerald's novels are character-driven far more than they are plot-driven, OK? In this, they are like the monuments of modernism (Remembrances of Things Past, novels by Gide, Broch, Joyce, Mann, Musil et al.) except Fitzgerald reveals character with preternatural economy. She has a positive genius for the detail(s) that reveals character, and her novels have a considerable range of characters in them, including saints, villains, wizened prepubescent girls, and all manner of muddled adults trying to find or hold onto love, to make a living and make their world less unkind.

Still, _The Bookshop_ seems to me to have a completely clear plot and some clear subplots. I am puzzled by reader comments about lack of plot in this nove. I suspect that at least some of these comments confuse lack of plot with an ending that makes them unhappy._The Bookshop_ IS a devastating book (one misunderstanding in particular made me ache) and it is obvious that unhappy endings make a book unpalatable to some readers. But, surely, not liking how a plot turns out is not a valid reason to claim there is a lack of plot?

On the way to catastrophe, _The Bookshop_ contains much that is also devastatingly funny. And, although I have never lived in Sussex, I grew up in a small town and am ready fervently to testify for the versimilitude of Fitzgerald's portrayal of the small-mindedness, officiousnes, and obliviousness of some of the characters (not that such qualities are lacking in urbanites--one can find these same qualities in, say, _House of Mirth_ as well as in _Main Street_ to take two American examples).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fitzgerald's characters are incredibly real and engaging, January 22, 2003
By 
"jenniferbraun" (Santa Rosa, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
The Bookshop is probably my favorite of this author's work so far. It's not a nice story. Not all great stories necessarily have happy endings. Priceless scene between the two aristocrats toward the end of the book. Fitzgerald takes provincial nastiness and describes it with such beauty it's impossible to be too disappointed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every word resonates, July 13, 1998
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
This tiny book is also one of the saddest I have read. It is beautifully written, with each character coming fully to life. When I reached the end, I turned right back to the first page and read it again - for what I might have missed the first time round as well as for the pleasure of reading it again.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing author I had not heard of!, October 10, 2005
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
I was very happy that I read this book. I work at a used book store and it caught my eye one day. I didn't know anything about this author but I'm glad I took a chance on her. Her characters were so real you hurt for them and the ghost descriptions were vividly frightening. Florences' feelings of failure at the end is something everyone has felt at one time or another. I can't wait to read more by her.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes Reading Pleasure Again, October 8, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Bookshop (Paperback)
Its like coming home after a long absence and NOT being disappointed . I really enjoyed the ordinary, the simplicity of the story. Miss Fitzgerald creates a tight story full of character. You want to sit next to the characters after the finale and ask questions. Could you be so petty/mean? Why didnt you ask the other question? What is going on in your life? Very good characterizations.
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The Bookshop
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (Paperback - September 15, 1997)
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