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A Novel Bookstore Paperback – Aug 31 2010
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Praise for A Novel Bookstore
"Marvelous and stimulating."—The San Francisco Chronicle
"A hymn to fine literature."—Le Figaro
"A Novel Bookstore is...a declaration of love for the art of the novel and its effects on human history."—La Croix
"Cossé poignantly depicts characters who have turned to literature for solace against the pain in their lives"—Publisher's Weekly
"An Agatha Christie-style mystery bolstered by a love story worthy of Madame de la Fayette...Laurence Cossé excels in deconstructing the world of books."—Madame Figaro
"A deeply satisfying manifesto of book love and a sharp indictment of those who would use such love for their own evil purposes."—The Huffington Post
"Eminently readable, it is a love letter to the novel...and a profound exploration of human nature."
Top Customer Reviews
"The Good Novel" bookstore is opened by two book lovers, who want a store devoted solely to the novel and solely to the best novels ever written. And who will decide the stock carried by the bookstore? Why, a specially selected group of eight French novelists will submit lists of their choices of the 600 greatest novels in print. Both the selectors and their actual selections will/must remain secret from the public. No one must know who selected which books. I must question whether writers or whether readers should select the stock; after all, writers may be excellent writers but might not know what readers want. A minor point, I suppose.
The bookstore opens to much fanfare and is successful from the start. However, criticism begins almost immediately mostly aimed at the "elitist" nature of the bookstore. What makes one novel "good" and worthy of selection for the stock, and another novel "not good" (i.e. "popular") and not worthy of selection. Incidents against the bookstore begin and someone, somehow, discovers the names of the eight hidden selectors and they are targeted for "mischief", not death or serious injury, "mischief". Someone - or somebodies - open competing bookstores in the same block, just drawing business away from "The Good Bookstore". Things eventually work out.
But what was the reader given? A rich plot premise that doesn't really seem to develop and rich characters who remain somewhat ambiguous in their presentation.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But success has come at a price. Large numbers of new customers have ordered pop novels, then failed to pick them up, leaving the shop to pay for them. Nasty comments appear on their internet forum, and a seemingly organized attack is mounted in the press, with accusations of elitism taking up whole pages, At one point the shop is described as a "totalitarian undertaking," an attempt by a small group of elite to control the reading done by the public. Fascist accusations result. Ugly posters are plastered all over town, and demands are made that the shop's financial backer be unmasked. Lawsuits are initiated.
Eventually, three attempts to murder members of the secret selection committee, described in the opening pages of the novel, involve the police. Throughout the attacks, both physical and in print, the author raises questions of who benefits from the destruction of one small bookstore and its people. Resentful owners of other bookstores? A general public insulted by the shop's cultural snobbery? Publishers of new novels which have not "made the cut" for inclusion at the shop? A cabal of disaffected authors whose books are not carried by the shop? Soon the attacks begin to take their toll.
A combination of mystery, fantasy, philosophical analysis, and economic treatise on the book industry, A Novel Bookstore raises interesting questions within a unique story. The novel does have its problems, however. A love story involving manager Van and Anis, a wispy and only vaguely attentive young woman, is unsatisfying, and the mystery is not well integrated. The attempts at murder described in the beginning of the novel gain little attention for most of the novel as the ins and outs of book shop business and publishing dominate the "action." In fact, some of the most interesting sections of the novel are those related to the decisions of what books to include on the shelves. Though the novel is obviously fiction, some readers will feel that the plot line and its consequences lack enough realism to provide the reader with significant new understandings of the real "book world." Mary Whipple
Although this book contains within it a mystery, a couple of love stories, and a bit of otherworldly Chagallishness, mostly it is about people who love books. The catch is that these people don't love just any books, they love good books. Often today's culture celebrates diversity by saying everything is equally good. The consumer should decide for his or her self. Differences in quality are minimized, hidden, or ignored for fear of the e-word: elitism.
A Novel Bookstore explores this concept in the world of book publishing, selling, and reviewing. Fed up with the mediocrity and sameness of the mega-bookstores, and even many smaller ones, Ivan and Francesca decide to open the ideal bookstore: one which carries only "good" novels. We are led through their entire planning process. Novels or all fiction? Just classics or also newly released? Only new copies or also used? And above all, who will decide? The bookstore opens with a flourish and attracts both serious readers and the attention of those who stand to lose if some books are deemed better than others.
I found the beginning of the book delightful: a celebration of literature wrapped in a fun mystery-love story. But somewhere in the last third, I began to feel as though the author had lost her way. A narrative voice appears from nowhere and is a distraction, the mystery comes bogged down and is never resolved, and the theme of discernment in literature turns to an inditement of large publishers, booksellers, critics, and book prize judges in general. But despite a less than optimal ending, I found the book fun to read and a reminder that it is okay to say, "This is a good book, and this one is not."
One positive note: did like Francesca. Though she was a little too saintly to be believed, her story was nevertheless moving.