The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Date: September 20, 2016
Reviewed by: Courtney DeWitt
Fiction Addict Scorecard: A
Nothing seems to bring the contented wistfulness and escape that a book does. Purely opinion though this may be, I feel that some of you might agree. Part of what pulls a reader in is the connection to a character, usually the protagonist. Perhaps the reader and the character share a similarly defiant attitude toward life. Perhaps they share a similar background or lifestyle. Whatever the connection, it quenches a thirst for a feeling of belonging and even brings inspiration. The Bookshop on the Corner brought this sort of contentment and inspiration for me.
Nina, a knowledgeable and capable librarian, finds herself in a quandary. Technology is taking over her metro hometown, resulting in her library being shut down. Not to mention her roommate and friend can no longer stand the metric ton of books crowding their small shared house. Feeling lost and completely out of her comfort zone, Nina searches for fulfillment and a new career. An idea implants itself into her mind- what if she opened her own little bookshop? Someone had done so on a boat, so maybe she could do the same in another kind of vehicle? The idea for The Little Shop of Happily-Ever-After is born.
With boxes and boxes of books and a clunky yet charming van, Nina begins her new life in Scotland. New friends are made, romance slowly blooms, and she finds contentment and a kind of purpose she’s never known before. From a train conductor who leaves poetry to her shop helper that makes Nina feel torn between keeping promises and doing what’s right, she finds that even sleepy towns are full of adventure and excitement. Books, it turns out, are exactly what this town needs. And this town might be exactly what Nina needs, too.
To be quite honest, I snatched up this book as soon as I saw that books were a prominent feature, along with Scotland as a major setting. When I visited Scotland over a decade ago, I fell in love with its people, lifestyle, and landscape. It’s no surprise to me that the book’s main character, Nina, did as well. Still, even settings and mention of things we love can’t carry readers through a book without good plot and development. Nina definitely developed in the way I am striving to do in my own life. She began complacent and frightened of her loss of comfort. But as she takes on this new challenge and life, she grows and comes into herself. In short, this novel reminds me that coming-of-age isn’t just for teenagers. Adults grow into themselves and change as well. The main difference is the level of responsibility and bills, many bills.
Nina’s little bookshop is only a fraction of her development. She also learns what love really is. Although many adults would like to think that teenage heartbreak gave us all the lessons we needed on relationships, dating as a grown-up is just as filled with passion and heartbreak. Nina learns this herself as she starts to open herself up to the idea of romance that she’s put off for so long. More than romance, she also learns what it means to be a good friend and to open up and allow herself to make new ones. After all, small towns have the reputation of knowing each other’s business for a reason. Nina finds her home here, where farms bring fresh food and the people truly care for one another. The choice that she ultimately will make is whether her Little Shop of Happily-Ever-After will find a permanent home there in the rolling hills of Scotland or if the road will bring her elsewhere.
If there were flaws in Nina’s journey, I really couldn’t care less. Jenny Colgan, to me, wrote with fervor and poetry what it is to love literature and to live a life well-lived. She even adds places and ideas of where to cozy up with a good novel just for good measure. Even without such a sweet, little touch, I would have adored The Bookshop on the Corner. It’s inspiration to drive me to keep reaching for my dreams and never short-change myself puts this book firmly and permanently on my bookshelf to read again and again.