07 April, 2014

Book Review: The Bookstore

From Goodreads: Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.
Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.
The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?
A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them, The Bookstore is also a story about emotional discovery, the complex choices we all face, and the accidental inspirations that make a life worth the reading.

Thoughts: I love books like this if for no other reason than I want to believe there are places like The Owl. Places where someone can find refuge and discover a bunch of quirky but kind people who immediately take them into their group and love and protect them. I also love it for the fact that it crept up on me. I enjoyed it from the start, but at some stage I found myself not just enjoying it, but loving it. Wanting nothing more than to read it, to find out what happens. For me, it's chick lit masquerading as something more - that rarest of books, really good, intelligent chick lit.
I found the characters lovable, frustrating, pretentious, honest and real. At times there was a danger of a couple of them being a little two dimensional, but you don't always get to know everything about them, although there are hints of there being more. Luke is a perfect example. He comes across as slightly aloof and judgemental , but every now and then you get snippets of something more. However, since the book is told in the first person from Esme point of view and there is never a convenient out pouring of life story from Luke, you never get more than hints. I actually applaud this type of restraint. You know what Esme knows and quite frankly, that will have to do. 
I found the character of Mitchell quite interesting in the end. It is very easy to cast him as the pompous, arrogant rich kid who cares nothing for anyone but himself. You wonder what Esme sees in him. But his encounters with her just before and after the baby are born had me wondering whether once again there is more there than you think. I can't say without giving too much away, but in reading other reviews no one else seems to be thinking along the lines I am. If you have read this, please leave me a message with an email address so I can talk to you about it - I'd like to know someone else sees what I do!