A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cossé (T: French-English by Alison Anderson)
The Good Novel has been open just over a year in Paris when three of its secret selection committee members are attacked. Now it is up to Ivan, Franchesca, and officer Heffner to unravel the mystery of who is behind the obvious sabotage attempts before someone ends up dead or the store is forced to close. Told from the view of a mysterious narrator who is determined to write the history of the shop and its founders, A Novel Bookstore will carry its readers away just as the stories available at The Good Novel do its customers.
Part mystery, part romance, all literary, A Novel Bookstore astounded me at every turn. Much of the mystery is left in the dark as the narrator can only share what he/she knows, but with each character introduced the intrigue grows and the reader becomes more involved in the story. At 416 pages, this novel is fairly hefty but definitely worth the read. The translation is impeccable. Only one word was mistranslated, and I think it more likely that it was translated correctly and misspelled/autocorrected to the wrong word. While it is, on occasion, hard to understand whether Ivan or Francesa is speaking during their tête-à-têtes due to quotation mark use, the difficulty is only mildly annoying as it typically doesn’t matter for you to know exactly which of them is speaking.
I enjoyed every page immensely, from the bits about book selling to the selection committee, to the backgrounds of the committee people and Ivan and Francesca’s lives. Whether everything was interesting to me because of my love for all things literary as well as historical, or the way the narrator weaves the history of the store, I was mesmerized by every detail. Most of all, from about a third or halfway through the story, I became obsessed with the idea of the narrator. To write, as an author, from a character’s point of view as if they are the author, fascinated me, and then the fact that we do not find out until the final pages who this mysterious narrator is was just too much. I couldn’t put the book down all week, reading a paragraph here and there anytime I had a moment to myself. It is easy to digest, while at the same time it leaves you wanting so much more. The Jane Austen quote, “If a book is well written I always find it too short.” definitely applies in this case.
I do not know if there will be a sequel to Cossé’s work, especially given the way things ended, but if there ever is another work like it or involving The Good Novel and its colorful cast of characters, I will be there on release day to buy it.
HHC Rating: 5 Stars