The Lost for Words Bookshop, by Stephanie Butland (2017, 2018)

Contemporary Fiction
Lost for Words Bookshop, by Stephanie ButlandDon’t be fooled by the cover – this is not a lightweight romance about love in a bookstore. Loveday Cardew is a damaged young woman who absolutely prefers books to people. So much so that she has meaningful first lines of several books tattooed on her body. Whether she’s speaking to a customer or to the reader, she is knowledgeable, blunt and sometimes sarcastic, socially awkward, and very funny. But there is nothing funny about what brought her to this place. The story opens in 2016 when she finds a poetry book on a sidewalk. She picks it up, and posts a sign in the bookstore where she works. That’s how she comes to meet the book’s owner, a magician who persists in trying to get to know her. She slowly allows herself to befriend him, and in doing so we start to learn, through flashbacks, about her tragic histories – one in her childhood that put her in a foster home for her teen years, and again just a few years ago, when a burgeoning romance goes terribly wrong. Definitely character driven, this is a novel that moves slowly but steadily toward a rather predictable ending, but with some brilliant writing and agonizing moments along the way – it’s kind of a new adult version of Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Brief descriptions of relationship violence make this more suitable for older teens only. It’s also a bit of a mystery, as answers are quite slow in coming. I really liked Loveday and her boss Archie, and English majors/bibliophiles will enjoy the dozens of literary references, many of which went over my head! Regardless, it’s a touching, heart-breaking story of pain and recovery set in a London bookshop, so perfectly described I can absolutely see and smell it. A good choice for a movie, I think, along the lines of Remains of the Day (also based on a book, natch!). Way WAY better than Our House.
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