A Quick Read

Last week, I returned from a trip to the library with a pile of “quick reads.” Sometimes I just need to be able to read and read, but not all in one book, so I’ve enjoyed this week of short quick novels and novellas. One of the most enjoyable of those books was Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop. I’ve never read any of her work before, but I will now because I really liked this one! It’s very well-written, and was actually shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1978.

It’s not a happy story, and much of Fitzgerald’s work is considered “tragic comedy.” She, herself, has said about her books:

“[My books] are too sad really to be comedies, but not important enough to be tragedies. And I’ve got…a great feeling for people who are defeated by life…They’re very decent sorts, usually, but it’s really all rather too much for all of them.”

The main character in The Bookshop fits that description very well. A widow, named Florence Green, decides to open a bookshop in a small English town called Hardborough. It’s not a welcoming town, and she is a novice businesswoman. Hardborough does not support her in any of her efforts, and many in the town go out of their way to undermine her success.

It’s a very interesting, succinctly written, view of human nature. Fitzgerald describes the brevity of her writing style:

“I do leave a lot out and trust the reader really to be able to understand it. [My books are] about twice the length…when they’re first finished, but I cut all of it out. It’s just an insult to [readers] to explain everything.”

If you’re in the mood for a quick read, with top quality writing, I highly recommend this little book.

12 thoughts on “A Quick Read

  1. jenclair

    Fitzgerald’s The Golden Child is on my list already, but I’m adding The Bookshop. Thanks for the quotes in which Fitzgerald explains elements of her writing style.

  2. Gentle Reader

    I’ve never heard of this writer before. But I love the quotes about her writing–they really make me want to read something she’s written. Thanks!

  3. Bookfool

    I just added this one to my wish list, thanks. I’m feeling the same way – I want to gobble up books, right now, but in small bites.

  4. Tara

    I’ve never read this author and have always felt that I should. This sounds like a good read, and interesting premise.

  5. Robin

    Thanks for your comments, Jenclair, Gentle Reader, Bookfool, and Tara. I’m definitely going to read more of her books.

  6. iliana

    I love her quote on how she edits her books. Interesting. It’s been years since I’ve read this book but it was one I greatly enjoyed. I read this one for a book group and it was a good discussion – so for a “short” novel there really was a lot to talk about. Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Robin

    Iliana, It would be an interesting book to discuss in a book group. I’m going to enjoy reading her other books.

  8. Matt

    Wow this reminds me of Chocolat when the woman opens a chocolate shop in an unwelcoming town.

    This one sounds like something I want to read. I’ll look for it. Thanks Robin.

  9. Jill

    I have found myself looking at some of the shorter books on the shelf, because it isn’t such a trudge to finish something. I am a bit shamefaced when I now tell my college-professor-friends that I can sympathize with those college students who resent reading anything longer than 300 pages.

  10. Robin

    Hi Jill,
    There are times when I really want to take on a War and Peace size book, but life gets pretty hectic, and at those times I really enjoy some shorter reads because I can feel like I’m accomplishing something.

    Matt,I hope you enjoy it…and I’ll be interested in your response to it.


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