This work is truly a masterpiece in not just the fantasy genre but in the literary world of fiction. It can be read as a throughly well-written and th...moreThis work is truly a masterpiece in not just the fantasy genre but in the literary world of fiction. It can be read as a throughly well-written and thought provoking vampire tale and as a beautifully crafted metaphor on loneliness, and it is here where it's power lies. The last man on earth, as he knows it, lives with the constant threat of vampiric mutilation. Throughout this short book, which covers a few years in time, our hero is constantly faced with a choice: Does he kill himself? Does he yield to the vampires wishes and in so doing become a vampire himeself? Or does he fight back? Never before have I read such an insightful treatise on loneliness, isolation and the courage that can be captured beyond man's frailties. The tension is unrelenting and Matheson has paced it perfectly. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys thoughtful literary fiction even if they don't think they'd enjoy fantasy/sci-fi. (less)
5 Stars for Craftsmanship, 3 Stars for Entertainment
At around 150 pages The Bookshop is a work that can be devoured in a single sitting, and is intend...more5 Stars for Craftsmanship, 3 Stars for Entertainment
At around 150 pages The Bookshop is a work that can be devoured in a single sitting, and is intended to be. The Bookshop is perfect in every way. It is a literary masterpiece where every action, scene, sentence and image exists for a reason and is swollen with significance like the swollen marshes of the fens that lace the novel.
From the first page we encounter the portent imagery of a heron and an eel fighting for their survival, a motif which occurs throughout the novel, encapsulating Florence Green’s fight with her community. As the story develops there are other significant motifs to ponder; the red dress for example or the behaviour of ‘the rapper’.
The plot is simply poised; our protagonist, middle-aged Florence Green decides to open a bookshop in her village and is shocked to discover that local opposition is about to make her venture more difficult than she predicted. This is a book about the spite and fear that exists in provincial communities but it is also a portrait of the individual versus bureaucracy.
Fitzgerald makes allusions to the rotting current of unfairness with simple narrative enhancements; the village is named Hardborough for example. There is damp in the old buildings signifying that rot is setting in.
The characters are drawn with dark humour. In any other setting and in under a lesser writer’s pen they could easily have become caricatures, but it is testament to Fitzgerald’s skill that many of them remain on the right side of revolting.
So as outlined earlier, this book is perfect so why only 4 stars? Without question The Bookshop deserves 5 stars for literary merit, economy of style and demonstrating insight into human nature, presented in beautiful, lyrical prose, but I just failed to find it entertaining as a novel. I am only too aware that this is a subjective point of view and a matter of individual taste. I wished I’d enjoyed it more, the book deserved it, but I would whole-heartedly recommend it anyone who appreciates style and form, especially within poetry or short stories to give it a go. You may engage with it on a whole new level. I can’t deny that this book is important, and has added something new to my appreciation of great writing. I think Penelope Fitzgerald summed it up best herself in The Bookshop:
“A good book is the precious life-blood of a masterspirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life, and as such it must surely be a necessary commodity.” (less)
Simple, clean prose with a gothic undercurrent. A shabby old house and two strange sisters. Liked the moth stuff. Reminded me of Barbara Vine's early...moreSimple, clean prose with a gothic undercurrent. A shabby old house and two strange sisters. Liked the moth stuff. Reminded me of Barbara Vine's early books.(less)