Book review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

About the troubles of rating books:

I’ve always had a bit of trouble with expressing judgement. I think it boils down to self-confidence issues. I am not sure that my opinion is worthy of being expressed, and who am I to judge others? And what if they get upset? What if everyone else disagrees with me and I’m exposed as a moron and fraud (something, something, imposter syndrome…)? Entirely beside all this is the fact that taste is very subjective so why would my opinion guide anyone else? Of course there are certain objective criteria by which you can judge art in general and fiction writing in particular. Having studied literature I’ve had these methods of evaluation hammered into my head over the course of my 5 years in university – only to promptly forget all about them. Though I’ve no doubt that there’s some remnant of my schooling and background that goes into it when I write reviews, even though it’s more on a subconscious level.

About this book specifically:

It has an average rating of 3.9 on Goodreads and 4.5 on Amazon (Amazon ratings always seem to be considerably higher than on Goodreads which makes me mistrust them), and I’m giving it a 3. Am I being unfair? Am I being too judgemental? The thing is, within its genre (being chick-lit/romance) I’m pretty sure it’s the cream of the crop. But I also feel like I don’t want to hold books in this category to lower standards than others. And even though I really enjoyed it, I can’t in good conscience give it a 4, considering some of the other books I’ve given a 4 star rating, which were decidedly stronger than this.

So… 3/5 stars.

But really, it was a very enjoyable listen. You just have to take it for what it is: fluff. Even though it’s quite well written fluff.

Yes, this was another Audible one. Narrated by Julie Barrie. I wasn’t too keen on the narrator as she had a slightly whiny voice, and she had a few weird mispronunciations (guru as guRU,  hostess as hostESS, Louboutin as Labootn). Nothing too damning, though I feel if your job is to narrate stuff you should be sure about the pronunciation. Then again, even Benedict Cumberbatch makes mistakes… 😉

So, the story… It’s about what the title suggests really. Mainly it focuses on Emelia Nightingale who is struggling to take over her father’s beloved bookshop in a quaint little English town, after he passed away.* The bookshop is in dire straits, but Emelia wants to keep it running to honour her father’s memory. So it deals with her struggles of running a business as well as coping with her loss. There’s also at least 6 parallel stories involving Emelia’s friends and customers and their struggles with love and relationships in various stages of life.

Given that all these somewhat separate narratives mix and weave throughout the book, it is only natural that it’s written from the third-person omniscient narrator point of view, which in and of itself I have no issue with. But I do think it’s best (and less confusing) if you stick to one person’s perspective at a time. This was mostly the case here, but it wasn’t consistent. Like there was a scene between Emelia and Sarah where the scene was written from Emelia’s POV but suddenly there was a line about how Sarah had applied her lipstick in a downstairs bathroom before the other woman arrived, which of course Emelia had no way of knowing.

The characters are really all quite sympathetic and likeable, and their stories are all interesting. Nevertheless I feel like there’s a few too many things going on at the same time. It’s probably more of a problem with the audiobook because it takes time to understand that we’ve jumped between stories with no visual cues as additional guidance. But I also just felt that each story and character wasn’t given enough time to develop. I must have been at least 3/4 through the book when I expected to be roughly half way based on where we were in the different stories. So, while everything was wrapped up and came to a satisfactory conclusion, as suits the genre, it was all wrapped up too hastily. It’s as if the author got impatient, or knew what ending she wanted but wasn’t sure exactly how to get there so started glossing over stuff. Sort of like “oh yeah and this problem was also fixed and they’re happy now”.

But, it’s a very cosy story, set in a very cosy bookshop – which incidentally I’d love to work in. Peasebrook sounds just like the kind of place I’d love to live as well. And of course, being set in a bookshop there’s plenty of references to literary works, and plenty of love for books. Books are important in some way or other to all the characters that pass through the shop, and in some cases even help change lives.

I love the setting, I love the emphasis on the importance of literature, and I really like the stories and characters too, so overall a recommended read – I just feel like it could have been more.

*Side note: what is it with all the dead dads? I feel like there’s a dead dad in pretty much every book I read these days. Admittedly, 3 of those were in the Seven Sisters-series so technically the same dad. I guess it makes sense as a catalyst for change – someone important that has always been there is suddenly gone. Maybe you are left with certain responsibilities, or maybe you are free of some. I know I personally felt a bit of both.

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