Title: The Bookstore
Author: Deborah Meyler
Published by: Gallery Books.
Publication date: Aug 20th 2013
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Bury Library
Ardent and Idealistic, Esme Garland has arrived in Manhattan with a scholarship to study art history at Columbia University. When she falls in love with New York blue-blood Mitchell van Leuven, with his penchant for all things erotic, life seems to be clear sailing, until a thin blue line signals stormy times ahead. Before she has a chance to tell Mitchell about her pregnancy, he abruptly declares their sex life is as exciting as a cup of tea, and ends it all.
Stubbornly determined to master everything from Degas to diapers, Esme starts work at a small West Side bookstore to make ends meet. The Owl is a shabby all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters, such as handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke and George, the owner, who lives on spirulina shakes and idealism. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme-but will it be enough to sustain her when Mitchell, glittering with charm and danger, comes back on the scene?
The Bookstore is a 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.
A whimsical story about Esme Garland, an educated young woman studying for a PhD in Art History miles away from her English home in New York City. Or a 352 page book about stupidity!
This is one of those novels that I really cannot make my mind up about. On the one hand the story is fleetingly enchanting; the main character falls head over heels in love with Mitchell – a man so ‘out of her league’ that she puts up with his flaws and decides to keep their unplanned baby. I wish the story carried that romantic notion well, but it doesn’t. The love of Esmes life is a pathetic, abusive man-child! At times I wanted to scream at Esme for being so blindly in love with such an absolute buffoon, the rest of the time I wanted to scream at her to grow a spine and slap the irritating bastard! Their relationship is one of those, on again, off again ones that get you reeling and hoping that either party involved would change for the better – but sadly the story is really lacking in the character development department and towards the end of the novel it’s no surprise that this ‘amazing’ man ends up ditching Esme because they cannot talk about anotherwomans boobs and she won’t indulge him in a threesome with said woman. I wish that were the lowest actions of this man, but he seems content to humiliate his fiancee at every turn and goes so far to push her out of bed when she is 6 months pregnant.
Honestly, the guy is a bag of dicks, but more surprising is that Esme, a woman with a Cambridge degree, seems more concerned about when this waste of space will message her back than the implications of having a baby.
Yet, I found myself forgiving of Esme and her blind love for her man, because she is well written as a young and naive character. What 23 year old is world wise and hasn’t fallen for the wrong person?
There is another aspect to The Bookstore, which is, the bookstore The Owl, where Esme finds work; here we are introduced to more characters who add a bit more ‘life’ to Esmes world. Her boss, co-workers and regulars, are the family that have replaced Esme’s real family – not that her family has abandoned her, but they aren’t mentioned that much in the novel – each one having their own quirks and qualities. Amongst them are a collection of homeless people who help out in the quirky, independent bookstore when they can and how offer Esme little tales an insights into their own lives. Each of the characters are lovable in their own ways and I personally find that I can relate to thoughts of the co-workers about their regulars having worked in a retail environment myself. With the exception of one of her co-workers that she becomes the most ‘friendly’ with; I found her friendship with Luke somewhat stale and a bit hollow.
There is a fair amount of reflection and ‘internal monologue’ from Esme in the book. She spends a great deal of time wondering if she can and should have a baby at such a young age in the middle of her PhD and as well at the end of the book when she finds herself coping with her choices.
There was an instance where I felt like putting the book down completely, but by this point I had read over half and I always feel invested to read a book to conclusion after a certain point. It was where Esme goes to meet rich-boy Mitchells family. Queue the cliche scenes of posh houses, family that still loves their sons previous lover and extravagant parties that the main character feels out of place at. While all this seems forgivable, it seems a little far fetched to believe that the family would try to pay someone off and have them abort their baby. More so that when they fail in this offer, they pass it all off as ‘a test.’ For me, it just felt as though the story was dipping into the realm of ‘too silly.’
I still can’t say as if I recommend this book or not. It’s not my usual cup of tea when it comes to reading and maybe I am missing something with the ‘romance’ genre? Maybe they are all like this, a little naive and ‘all men are jerks’ but I don’t feel like I want to give up on the genre just yet. I think it’s one of those books where, if you’re stuck indoors on a horrible rainy day and don’t have anything else to read, then you won’t be doing yourself a disservice, but if you have it in your pile of books, then maybe put it on the bottom.