The Bookshop

The Bookshop

Book rating: 04 Paperback

By (author) Penelope Fitzgerald, Introduction by David Nicholls

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  • Publisher: FOURTH ESTATE LTD
  • Format: Paperback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 192mm x 18mm | 118g
  • Publication date: 2 December 2002
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0006543545
  • ISBN 13: 9780006543541
  • Sales rank: 19,027

Product description

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too. Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.

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Author information

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. Three of her novels, The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the Prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award. She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.

Customer reviews

By Lyn Emanuel 18 Mar 2011 4

Review quote

'Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality - the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.' Sebastian Faulks 'Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.' David Nicholls 'Its stylishness, and this low-voiced lack of emphasis are a pleasure throughout, its moral and human positions invariably sympathetic. But it is astringent too: no self-pity in its self-effacing heroine, who in a world of let-downs and put-downs and poltergeists, keeps her spirit bright and her book-stock miraculously dry in the damp, seeping East Anglian landscape.' Isabel Quigley, Financial Times 'Penelope Fitzgerald's resources of odd people are impressively rich. Raven, the marshman, who ropes Florence in to hang on to an old horse's tongue while he files the teeth; old Brundish, secretive as a badger, slow as a gorse bush. And this is not just a gallery of quirky still lives; these people appear in vignettes, wryly, even comically animated...On any reckoning, a marvellously piercing fiction.' Valentine Cunningham, TLS

Editorial reviews

On the heels of The Blue Flower (1997), hem's a slighter, equally charming, half as deep little novel - about snobbery and meanness in the provinces - that the immensely gifted Fitzgerald published in England in 1978. It's 1959, and the "small, wispy and wiry" Florence Green, a widow and middle-aged, wants to open a bookshop in the little, bleak, remote, sea-swept East Anglian town of Hardborough. And so she borrows money to buy her stock and, as a place to house both it and herself, the High Street building known as Old House, over half a millennium old and faultless except for being damp and haunted. But as Mr. Raven, the marshman, says, Florence "don't frighten," which is why he has her hold onto a horse's tongue while he files its teeth. What Florence hasn't counted on, though, is the studied malevolence of Hardborough's social illuminary and civic leader, Mrs. Gamart, who now says she wanted Old House for an "arts centre." And things, indeed, start going wrong for Florence - not from the real ghost, who seems frightening but harmless, but from inexplicable changes in statute, policy, and law. When Florence is tipped off by a slippery ex-BBC employee that she ought to stock Lolita, she questions only whether it's a "good book" - and so she asks the town's one true aristocrat, the dour Edmund Brundish, veteran of WW I. He says it's good (though he dies soon after), but Florence's troubles still grow only worse, both before and after Nabokov sells out. Readers will learn the sorry end, while enjoying on the way a wondrous cast of townsfolk, including Florence's assistant, the sweetly tough Christine Gipping, who, at 11, as Florence says, "has the ability to classify, and that can't be taught," though she does make an error (true human style) that costs dear. Pitch-perfect in every tone, note, and detail: unflinching, humane, and wonderful. (Kirkus Reviews)