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I read this book years ago. Loved it.

Still want to open a bookshop when I retire.

Want to join me??


Isabel--I loved working in a bookstore years ago. I worked for ten years in an independent store and would still be working there part time had they not closed! You just let me know when you're ready! :)


Same here. Just after graduating I walked into my favourite bookshop and asked as a joke if they wouldn't like to hire me part-time. They did. I loved it but the total lack of management led to an early end. This is one reason why I always wanted to read this book, the other that I haven't read Penelope Fitzgerald yet. I always thought: this should be a book with a happy ending! It would be something to dream about... Sounds slightly more sobering. I'm still looking forward to reading it very soon.


I'm a big Penelope Fitzgerald fan and I enjoyed this book very much, but don't think it's her best by a long shot. I loved The Beginning of Spring, and Offshore won the Booker. Also The Blue Flower is wonderful. But as ever you produce a beautiful review, Danielle!


Cornflower's group was the reason I chose to read this recently and really enjoyed it. There will definitely be more Fitzgerald in my future....and what about that Christine? She was wonderful, I could have had a follow-up novel just about her!


I've enjoyed your absorbing review. This book keeps popping up on blogs. I will have to find it and read it sometime soon. Thank you.


I've heard so many good things about this book and after reading your post on it, I'm convinced of two things - 1. I must read this book and 2. I need to open up my own bookshop. Thanks for such an informative and great post!


I read this book last year, purely by chance, and loved it. I will definitely be reading more of Penelope Fitzgerald's work!


Nice review. I have been of this again and again on various blog circles.I know I am going to get to it eventually !


I loved this book but I do think I was expecting a sort of comfort read and this isn't it. I think I was a bit taken aback by the town's residents and how mean they were. I read it many years ago and haven't had much luck with some of her other books but I still have another on my stacks so one day.


Caroline--I also worked in a small family run bookstore. I did work there for more then ten years, but I knew that their days were numbered as all the big bookstore chains like B&N were moving into my city at the time. I think the owners were also getting ready to retire to that added to the bookstore's demise. Still, it was great fun while it lasted. The Fitzgerald is really good, but not at all really what you expect it to be. It seems like it would be a nice, comforting sort of read, but it is much darker/bleaker. Still, I'm really happy to have finally read her.
Litlove--Strangely I didn't think this would be an easy book to write about, so I am happy my post went better than I thought. I have all three of the books you mention so will be choosing another to read soon, I think. It's actually nice to know her other work is even better than this one!
Darlene--I loved Christine, too. She offered some lighter moments, though she was almost cruelly blunt! Still, I loved it that she rapped Mrs Gamart's wrist! Maybe there is some justice in the book!
Penny--I think a number of people might have read it for Cornflower's book group--it's sort of fun reading something together at the same time and getting different perspectives. It's definitely worth a read.
Nadia--Do look for this one. It's a very good, and short read. I'd love to have my own bookstore--what a nice thought.
Cathy--I wonder why I waited so long to read her--I've had a number of books on my shelves for ages now. I want to pull another off and start reading right away, but I had better pace myself.
Vipula--This seems to be a popular read at the moment, so you are getting lots of temptations. It took me a while to pick it up but it was worth the wait.
Iliana--I knew beforehand that it wasn't going to be a charming light read, but I was still a little surprised by the general nastiness, too. As this is my first, I'm looking forward to trying some of her other titles. It seems she's written quite a few books, so hopefully you'll find one that you have better luck with.


I'd like to re-read this one; I enjoyed it the first time but, as others have said, was a bit surprised by the town's lack of support. I wonder how a second reading would go with an awareness of the outcome; I think I might appreciate it differently.


I liked this one, but found it kind of bleak in an odd way. There's no hope at the end - the bookshop is gone, Christine has failed the 11+ and had her raised hopes dashed and the town has won. Sad.


I have often wondered about this book and now I know! Thanks for writing about it. I always thought it would be lighthearted but I guess not. Now if/when I get around to it I will not have that expectation.


BuriedinPrint--I think a lot of people go into this book expecting a different sort of story, so it might come as a surprise to some readers. I had an idea of what it was about already, but I will still surprised by people's attitudes. Small town attitudes?
Jodie--It is sad. And in a weird way the town did win, but what did it win? I loved the character of Christine--she was the first in her family not to pass the 11+, though Florence jokes she might like the bigger bookstore in that other town better. I wonder if all PF's books have this tone--I do want to read more of her work.
Stefanie--Yes, don't think you'll be reading another 84 Charing Cross Road! :) It's very good, but I think you need to be in the right mood for it to come off well!


I'm a big fan of Penelope Fitzgerald. Several of her books do have a similar tone, but her writing is very observant. Human Voices is my favorite so far--it's set at the BBC during WWII.

Dorothy W.

I had a bit of a hard time with this one; I enjoyed reading it, but I had this feeling there was something missing -- some spark or liveliness or something. I'm interested to hear that Litlove says this isn't her best one; I also have The Blue Flower on my shelves, and maybe I will like it better.


Rebecca--I don't mind a darker sort of story at all, and it sounds like some of her other books are even better than this one, so I am looking forward to reading more. And I do have Human Voices on my shelves--I was eyeing that one particularly!
Dorothy--I enjoyed it but I shared that feeling that it was left sort of open ended. It is nice to know some of her other books are even better--something to look forward to.

Simon T

I thought this novel was beautifully sad - but still haven't read another PF yet!


Simon--It was sad, it left me feeling the tiniest bit bereft, but I really liked it in any case. I have several more of her books and I hope to pick up another soon. Now I need to read the other Penelope--Penelope Lively.

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