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The Bookshop

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  17,431 ratings  ·  2,802 reviews
In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop - the only bookshop - in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town's less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors' lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne.
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Paperback, 123 pages
Published September 15th 1997 by Mariner Books (first published October 1st 1978)
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Ilse
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The melancholy of defeat

She did not know that morality is seldom a safe guide for human conduct.

As gentleness is not (necessarily) kindness, courage, hard work and virtue is not invariably rewarded, I learned as a child listening to George Brassens’s song about the poor brave little white horse that never saw spring. Life is no bed of roses for the middle-aged widow Florence Green. When she decides to open a bookshop in the dozy coastal Suffolk town of Hardborough (Southwold), she will have to
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Cecily
Sjusamillabakka

There is strength and beauty in the margins, where we easily, maybe deliberately, fail to look.

While I was reading this, I came across an archaic Shetland fishermen’s taboo word, sjusamillabakka, for the shifting, liminal space betwixt land and sea.

Sjusamillabakka is perfect for this book:
• Geographically: set in a small, remote coastal town, on an island between sea and river.
• Connectedly: every fifty years or so “it had lost, as though careless or indifferent to such things,
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s.penkevich
Mar 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Dreamers
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Fionnuala
Shelves: book-love, uk, favorites
They’re saying that you’re about to open a bookshop. That shows you’re ready to chance some unlikely things.

An idyllic little bookshop stuffed with old hardbacks displayed on handcrafted shelves in an aging building--possibly haunted--on a crisp ocean coastline seems to be a common denominator in many bibliophile fantasies. A love of literature often leads to a desire to spread said literature into desiring hands and much is the dream of Florence Green in Penelope Fitzgerald’s 1978 novel The B
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Seemita
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bookshop Huggers
Shelves: uk, fiction, booker-sl-ll
On an unusually upbeat evening, I was winding up from work. The recently bought, crisp, intense 300-pages long fictional drama, that I had left, tantalizingly, at the 273rd page the previous night, was softly tip-toeing in front of my eyes. The unread pages were already floating invitingly in the evening breeze and I could not wait to reach home for resuming the date. When I was just stepping into the lift, I received a call from a friend, a bibliophile in fact. ‘Hey! Do you know they are closin ...more
Amalia Gkavea
''A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life,'' and as such it must surely be a necessary commodity. ''


Sometimes you have to fight against ignorance, prejudice and all kinds of malicious gossiping. Sometimes you have to allow yourself to go against the flow and make your mark in an ignorant community that blindly follows the way of the ‘’ money’’ and becomes hostile to the one who wishes to break the mold. Sometimes yo
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Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*
1.5 stars

The back of this book says that The Bookshop was 'shortlisted for the Booker Prize but unfortunately, to me, it sucked. I'm the first to admit some books are a bit over my head or I don't always get it, but in this case, I clearly GOT it, it just wasn't that good. I would have dished out two stars too, but the ending ruined that and left me in a bad mood.

The main reason this book almost didn't get finished (I would have abandoned if it wasn't so short), is that it was boring. Seriously
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Warwick
Reading this in conjunction with other nominees for the 1978 Booker Prize, like Jane Gardam's God on the Rocks and Kingsley Amis's Jake's Thing, really does give you this impression of 70s England as a place of small towns, insular gossip, hostility to new ideas, and a preoccupation with quotidian concerns over any sense of the wider world. In a sense, fair enough – but one does slightly yearn for a little more ambition and pizzazz in the novelling world. By comparison, Iris Murdoch's The Sea, T ...more
Violet wells
My third Fitzgerald and least favourite. Essentially, it's about the power struggle between two women. Florence is another of Fitzgerald's innocents, doomed to failure. A kind of child woman with a good heart but so lacking in practical acumen that opening a bookshop in a sleepy backward seaside village seems more like a wilful act of self-harm than an act of aspiration. Especially as we're never led to believe Florence has any kind of close affinity with books. She does battle with the power br ...more
Richard Derus
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rating: 5* of five

TODAY 30 JAN 21 this near-perfect book is $3.49!

2019 UPDATE There's a 2017 film that's pretty nearly the book on film. If your library participates in Kanopy's free streaming service, the film is available there.

The Publisher Says: In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop - the only bookshop - in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the
...more
Margitte
A small village, Hardborough, hardly surviving the harsh salted air and erosion of the ocean, becomes the choice for a new book shop to be opened by a widow, Florence Green. By all intentions, in 1959, it could have been an asset to the town, but it is soon obvious that Mrs. Green overstepped social boundaries by buying a building that Mrs. Violet Gamart, wife of general Gamart RET, wanted for other purposes. Besides this unforgivable faut pas, Mrs. Green also unknowingly interferes with the soc ...more
Phrynne
Jun 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Sometimes a book ends in such a depressing way that I struggle to recall what went before. This is one of those books. It makes it difficult to write a balanced review but I will try.

I did enjoy most of the book. The author writes really well and there are many light moments where she exposes the truth of human nature. The dialogue is skilfully done and the main character,Florence Green, always seems to be in charge of the situation. She is portrayed as an intelligent, brave and resourceful woma
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Barbara
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a child I often said to my mother: "That's not fair!" She would respond with : "Life's not fair". Florence Green, the main character in The Bookshop, would certainly agree.

Florence tried to expand the minds of the inhabitants of Hardborough without success. The ethos of this village just wasn't buying it. Due to ignorance, cruelty or apathy, the people let Florence know that what she wanted for them was not what they wanted, certainly not Nabokov's controversial Lolita.

I loved this story and
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Jan-Maat
In a masterpiece of bad planning, the first novels by Penelope Fitzgerald I read were her last ones: The Beginning of the Spring, The Gate of Angels, & the The Blue Flower. Now reading a couple of her earlier ones, like this and At Freddie's I think Fitzgerald as a writer reached her peak quite late, or maybe didn't even reach it before her death. If The Bookshop is your introduction to Fitzgerald you have a treat before you, but for me, coming to it by the worst route, good though it is, I have ...more
Eddie Watkins
May 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uk-fiction
I started to read this because I was in the mood for a cozy book about a quaint English village bookshop, but soon found out I was in for something else altogether. While there are those touches of quaint cozy English village life (of which I know nothing personally), it's mainly about the rancor and spite that rises to the surface of the village when the bookshop opens.

It's a small book, not overly ambitious, but it's also perfectly proportioned and written with a master's touch. There's a qui
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emma
Apr 22, 2021 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to emma by: s.penkevich
give me all the books about books
Vicky "phenkos"
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed The Bookshop and would unreservedly recommend it to anyone who's into literary fiction.

The first thing that strikes you when you start reading this book is the complexity of Fitzgerald's sentences, esp. if you come from a contemporary literature background. Fitzgerarld brings a level of complexity and thoughfulness to her writing that reminds one of Virginia Woolf. Nothing here is in-your-face or confrontational; on the contrary, everything is gentle and subtle, just like t
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Lynne King
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkable story about an ordinary woman, Florence Green, who in 1959, decides to open a bookshop in a small East Anglia coastal town - Hardborough. Does she succeed though? All I will say is that she had to contend with local opposition. Also remember we are talking about a different era, pre-internet. Booksellers then worked extremely hard and did not necessarily make financial gains. Their love of books gave them one incentive - to encourage everyone to read.

I've never forgotten the
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·Karen·
This is so delightfully funny and yet desperately sad at the same time that I'm spoilt for choice of marvels to share. Christine Gipping, for example, she of the broken front teeth:
They had been broken during the previous winter in rather a strange manner, when the washing on the line froze hard, and she was caught a blow in the face with an icy vest.
And this odd accident takes on a sinister note later in the novel when we discover that Christine has failed her 11 plus and will be going to
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Sawsan
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
For sure, no one ever feels alone in a bookshop
book shop is a dream come true for a woman who loves reading
a middle aged woman who has passion and persistence
but while the beginnings are always promising, the ends are quite different
Teresa
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Reread

According to the oldest man in the village, until Florence Green (our main character) opens a bookstore, there hasn’t been a bookshop in Hardborough (sounds Dickensian, doesn’t it?) since Dombey and Son was being published in installments. Not coincidentally (I’m guessing), Florence is also the name of Dombey’s daughter (not mentioned in Dickens' title). Hardborough’s banker, certainly condescendingly, writes to Florence (Green, that is, not Dombey): If over any given period of time the ca
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Chrissie
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oh my.....this is a dark little story. Afterwards, it leaves you thinking. Devastating. Real. I believe this could happen. I am grateful that the ten-and-a-half-year-old Christine, the shop assistant, is woven into the story. I needed her and I needed to experience the relationship between her and Florence Green, the bookshop's owner. The whole story is told over a short passage of a few months from 1959 to 1960 in a small Suffolk town on the North Sea. It is interesting to note that the author ...more
JimZ
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is Penelope Fitzgerald’s second published book (1978); she had just begun writing 3 years prior at the age of 58. Reminds me of one of those people who start late (well, relative late for Penelope Fitzgerald) in life what makes them famous, be it artist or writer.

I found this slight novel to be a pure delight to read. Turns out Penelope Fitzgerald herself managed a bookstore in, and she knew her subject matter well.

The Bookshop is set in 1959 in a fictional seaside (i.e., North Sea) town
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Paul Sánchez Keighley
This is such a good book.

Curt, poignant, understated, witty, charming, ruthless.

Every time I picked it up I felt myself slowly sink into its chilly English waters and upon rolling my eyes over its crisp sentences I’d abandon myself to the tug of its current and let it drag me serenely away.

The very small town of Hardborough earns its name ten times over. Surrounded by bogs and marshes, smothered by nasty weather, groped by touchy tides, and filled with bitter, selfish, gossipy souls. And ghost
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Laura Anne
Gutted by that ending. Felt the doom, but still hoped for good things for Florence. I was reading an online version and literally didn't know it was the last page. Gutted!
Is this Fitzgerald's usual method - the blunt trauma ending - anyone?

I can't rate it either because nowhere near so much fun as Offshore, but this one has taken on a much weightier subject - in Fitzgerald's words: people fall into two divisions, the exterminators and exterminees.

I don't agree with this; but authors will do as t
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David
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If you asked me to choose a writer particularly skilled at illustrating the latent nastiness that lurks in small provincial towns, my first choice would probably be a French author -- either Balzac or de Maupassant. The cruelties and resentments of village life are recurrent themes in their work -- a good illustration is one of de Maupassant's earliest and best-known stories, Boule de Suife , which paints a devastating picture of the meanness and nastiness that characterizes the behavior of the ...more
Ivan
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
What an ugly little book this is. The town seems ugly, not at all picturesque (at least as described), and the people who live in it are even worse; small minded, uncultured, unfriendly and toady. Why would anyone want to live there, or choose to open a business there?

I’m afraid I didn’t much care for this bleak and uncompromisingly downbeat novel. I found I couldn’t even feel bad for the protagonist who seemed a rather silly sort who opens a book shop on a whim (not from a love of books).

*spo
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Julie Ehlers
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
There seem to be a lot of reviews complaining that The Bookshop is depressing. I don't understand that viewpoint at all. This book was hilarious. It's all about the humor of having diminished expectations and still being unable to live up to them. Perhaps I shouldn't think too hard about why that appeals to me. Four stars. ...more
Laysee
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The word that came to mind to describe The Bookshop is ‘damp.’ My spirits were certainly dampened after reading this short novel about the damp Old House that fought for a chance to be a bookshop which was located in Hardborough, a small English town sandwiched between sea and river, and shrouded perpetually in a damp fog.

The year is 1959. Mrs Florence Green, a middle-aged widow left a small inheritance by her husband, opens the only bookshop in Hardsborough. The 19th century Old House has stood
...more
Kelly
Not your fault, Penelope. Just read one too many repressed-English-lady-in-a-closed-society stories in a row I think. Instead of the connection and recognition I typically feel, I came out the other side of predicting the words you were going to say with the face of the enemies that you spend much of the book fighting. Which means I need a break from you lovely ladies- as overidentified with you as I am- even I can need, like Charlotte, a little more air to breathe and I can't appreciate going o ...more
Paul Secor
Mar 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Mixed feelings. Well written, but too sad and bleak for my tastes. I had a similar reaction to John Williams' Stoner. The Bookshop and Stoner are both very well written books, but I have no desire to revisit either again.

2019 addendum: I saw the film version of this novel recently - partly to see what had been done with the book, and partly because I always enjoy watching Bill Nighy. The film left me with many of the same feelings that reading the book did - except that the tag at the end with F
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Penelope Fitzgerald was an English novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. In 2008, The Times included her in a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". In 2012, The Observer named her final novel, The Blue Flower, as one of "the ten best historical novels".

Fitzgerald was the author of nine novels. Her novel Offshore was the winner of the Booker Prize. A further three novels — The B
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