Sunday, November 10, 2013


A witty, sharply observed debut novel about a young woman who finds unexpected salvation while working in a quirky used bookstore in Manhattan.Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.

Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.

The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?

A rousing 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.

*eGalley received from publisher via NetGalley for review* 
Published August 20th, 2013 by Gallery Books
 352 Pages 

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This novel is not a romantic comedy..although there were definitely some funny bits; it's not a tragedy; it's not pure romance or smut. It's the thinking girl's attempt at romance/art....light on romance on heavy on art.

Yes. The art and life as an exchange student in New York City is the main focus of this story. And the life of Esme and the people she encounters. I am still sort of at a loss as to how I feel about the story. As a whole, I really did enjoy it. The writing was very descriptive and elegant. Very, very elegant. I think Shelley will compound on how we felt about Esme and her personal choices! 

Esme is a naive Brit trying to make sense of the world in which she lives and finds herself pregnant in. She's far from home, has very few friends she can count on and (I'm sorry to say) her boyfriend is a douche bucket.  This novel is devoted to her reflecting on the things and people around her--trying to figure out how it all works and how she feels about it; it kind of reminds me of being underwater--everything is distorted and you are completely in your head the entire time you are under.

Yes, Mitchell the rich arse is definitely a douche bucket. (I like the word douche, personally because Amazon doesn't block it..classy, yes. We know.) But he is truly dreadful. I liked how she was able to go through all of the normal emotions I suppose one would find themselves contemplating if you were 23 and alone in New York City and become pregnant. That was very well written and believable. The disdain I have for her or anyone putting up with someone who treats them as inferior and seriously just awful for the sake of propriety. No. Ugh, just no. Poor thing. 

In order for her to make ends meet Esme takes a job at her favorite second hand bookstore--The Owl. It's the interactions with the characters in this bookstore that provide her with much needed social interaction and cause her to ponder, briefly, what the hell she's doing with her life. George, Luke, Bruce, Dennis, and Deemo, challenge her views and give her a reason to think about her views. 

The Owl is the gem of this story. The characters there bring all of the art and books and reverence to the subject to a place that mean something. I for one love book stores of all kinds, but one like this would be simply amazing to work at. All of the regulars lent something special to the story, and to Esme whether she realizes it or not. I hope she did. Eventually. 

Her douche bucket boyfriend, Mitchell, also offers us some insight into Esme. She's so naive. She finds herself continually pulled into his esoteric crap and every time I think she's going to call him on his bullshit, she instead falls for it. GAH!!! For someone so very smart, she's very dumb. Maybe it's because she's scared and pregnant. Or maybe she actually believes that she's in love with that loser Mitchell??!!! But for some reason she refuses to see him for what he is and tries to make it work...for way toooo long.

That would probably go along with the idea that my family used to tell me...To be so smart, sometimes you do really dumb things. Sadly,  it was true. Maybe with some understanding of books leads to being less able to develop any sort of common sense? Maybe. I don't know that that is true of all people, but Esme definitely fits this bill. She needed some guidance from someone who would tell her to man up and act like a New Yorker that she was so desperate to be instead of English and apparently snowed over by everyone in her life. I refuse to believe that is how she is always going to be! I needed her to be much more empowered! 

By the end, I found myself still a little perplexed...not much is really resolved and I still found myself trying to make sense of some her choices, so be prepared. If you like high end art and literary references and enjoy imagining (as I did) the beautiful scenery of New York City, then give this book a try.

The setting and books and overall pace of the story did lend for some easy reading and wanting to find out where all of the people went and if their choices had a lasting impact. I'm so stuck on the HEA plot, that I'm still not sure if we got one. Maybe we did, and maybe we didn't...You'll have to see! The writing was like I said elegant and sophisticated and while I very much enjoyed it and this story...I find myself to be not either of those things apparently...(maybe it's because we've said douche in this review way too many times! Mitchell is a douche.) 

Shelley: 3 Stars

Courtney: 3 Stars

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