The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan
|The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: Light women's fiction with a quiet, unadventurous bibliophile heroine. Ideal holiday reading.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: February 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
I loved the introduction to this book. It explains that it's a story for readers who love books, and outlines with light humour the places where the author recommends settling down with a good book. I related strongly to the idea of reading in bed, and forgetting who is who as I drop off to sleep; this is my usual mode. Travelling is also, in my experience, an excellent time to read. I don't read in the bath - and the author's description of books drying out on radiators conjured up a depressing image - but I enjoyed all her other suggestions.
The story itself is about Nina, a twenty-something librarian who loses her job. She's a quiet person, not prone to wild ideas or adventures, who wants nothing more than to work with books. She admits to a crazy dream of having a travelling book van, taking books to people who find it difficult to get hold of them. One thing leads to another, and soon Nina finds herself with an elderly van, driving it down from Scotland to the Midlands.
A nasty incident on a railway crossing nearly causes Nina to lose everything, but friends rally round and she's able to acquire stock from libraries that are closing down. Strict parking laws in Birmingham mean that her plans have to change… and she's thrown into a new lifestyle and location, with both admirers and detractors.
It's a pleasant character-based story, and I found myself - another quiet, unadventurous book-loving type - relating strongly to Nina at times, while hoping I would never find myself in such horrendous situations. Some of the other people seem less realistic, even caricatured in places, but that doesn't matter; it means that it's easy enough to remember them, even while reading in bed and falling asleep…
As a long-term inhabitant of Birmingham, before moving abroad, I wasn't entirely happy about the somewhat negative portrayal of the city; however, it works well as a contrast to the small village in the Highlands of Scotland where Nina finds herself - reluctantly, at first - living.
There are some lovely side-stories; I particularly liked the one involving a teenage girl who is clearly neglected and impoverished, but who loves to read. I'm not sure I entirely believed in the eagerness of the pub owner and his regulars to read books, but it was a nice touch. Nina has a gift of discovering the right book for everyone, even the most reluctant of readers, and I like to think it might be possible to do this kind of thing.
There's an inevitable romantic thread running through the book too; I wasn't so keen on this part, since the obvious 'hero' turns out to be unsuitable, and I never quite believed in the attraction of the other one. The ending was a bit abrupt, too, everything falling rather too neatly into place.
Still, it made an enjoyable few days' reading, and I very much appreciated a story about such an unlikely heroine. The writing is good, the conversations mostly realistic, and I'm awarding it a solid four Bookbag stars. Ideal holiday reading for anyone who likes light women's fiction that doesn't feature glamorous extroverts.
Many thanks to the publishers for sending the book.
For more by the same author, I'd recommend The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris If you're interested in novels about people who change their job and perspective in life, then Evening Class by Maeve Binchy is a good read.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan at Amazon.com.
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