Thursday, July 28, 2011
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé
A devotee of Stendhal who has shunned the company of his fellow human beings to live on the outskirts of a tiny village in Savoy is kidnapped and left for dead along a forest road. A middle-aged mother who spends much of her time shuttling her numerous offspring along twisting mountain roads loses control of her car and ends up injured but alive in a gorge. Meanwhile, an elderly man of unbreakable habits is taunted and threatened by two unknown men while on his morning walk along the cliffs of Brittany. Mystery abounds but A Novel Bookstore is no everyday mystery. The victims here are not members of the underworld, toughs or thugs, but mild, meek and apparently ordinary people. In the eyes of their aggressors, they are guilty of only one crime: expressing their tastes in literature.
Indeed, all three victims are members of The Good Novel's secret selection committee. Tucked away in a corner of Paris, The Good Novel bookstore offers its clientele literary masterpieces, both contemporary and classic, selected by a top-secret committee of authors. The store has proven an instant success, but nobody could have imagined that such success would unleash a tide of hatred. Now, there are those who will stop at nothing to destroy The Good Novel. One by one, the pieces of this puzzle fall ominously into place, as it becomes clear to the store's owners, Ivan and Francesca, that their dreams of an ideal place for books may be shattered by envy and violence.
I liked this book. It was a solid read that held my attention throughout, except for the few times that I found myself skimming the pages to skip ahead. I think what I enjoyed most about the book was that it provided me with a list of new books to add to my current TBR list - talk about a never ending list! As far as the story goes, it was pretty interesting. Who wouldn't want to read a book about a bookstore that only sells good novels? Isn't that every bibliophile's dream - to open a bookstore just like that? Of course this leads to two big questions: What makes a novel 'good'? and Who decides which novels are 'good'? Both questions are repeatedly addressed throughout the novel, so we definitely get a feel for what everyone is thinking. In fact, its really interesting to find out which authors make the cut, and even more interesting to find out which ones don't.
As for the store itself, we do eventually learn about how it came to be. We learn about Francesca and Ivan, the owners of The Good Novel (the bookstore in question). And we learn about the secret selection committee that is comprised of eight authors who will be in charge of selecting which novels the bookstore should sell. We read about the immediate success of The Good Novel and how excited everyone seems to be that such a book shop finally exists. Of course, we also find out about all the negative campaigning against the bookstore. There are articles in the paper and comments on the radio that are aimed at ridiculing and harassing the owners of The Good Novel and this concept of a good novel. However, these attacks are tame in comparison to the ones the secret selection committee receives. They are subjected to much worse - from being kidnapped to getting in a car wreck.
Now, I don't want to give away anything else about the book, like, who is narrating the story - which surprisingly once revealed left me feeling rather deflated. And I don't want to give away any information about the unrequited love storyline that leads to the unraveling of a woman; or even the fact that we learn about the history of The Good Novel bookstore at a police precinct. None of these events provided the proper punch that I felt they intended to make. Instead they just left me feeling slightly disappointed.
Overall, I did enjoy this book. The writing was great and the idea for the story was fun. The characters really were characters and I found myself taking a liking to them. As for the story itself, though it was flawed and not as mysterious as I had hoped, it still was a great book to read. Definitely a perfect pick for the Paris in July Challenge!