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A Novel Bookstore

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Ivan, a one-time world traveler, and Francesca, a ravishing Italian heiress, are the owners of a bookstore that is anything but ordinary. Rebelling against the business of bestsellers and in search of an ideal place where their literary dreams can come true, Ivan and Francesca open a store where the passion for literature is given free rein. Tucked away in a corner of Paris, the store offers its clientele a selection of literary masterpieces chosen by a top-secret committee of likeminded literary connoisseurs. To their amazement, after only a few months, the little dream store proves a success. And that is precisely when their troubles begin. At first, both owners shrug off the anonymous threats that come their way and the venomous comments concerning their store circulating on the Internet, but when three members of the supposedly secret committee are attacked, they decide to call the police. One by one, the pieces of this puzzle fall ominously into place, as it becomes increasingly evident that Ivan and Francesca’s dreams will be answered with pettiness, envy and violence.

416 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Laurence Cossé

23 books48 followers
She was first a journalist in the French newspaper Le Quotidien de Paris and then at the French public radio France Culture. Most of her novels have been published by the French publishing house Gallimard.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 778 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 1, 2018
this is a novel that is ideal for those of us who can lose ourselves for hours in a bookstore. any bookstore; whether it be a giant chain box store, or a dusty used-bookstore. this is a book for people for whom coming across a book that is just perfect for your mood or place in your life can be the highlight of your week.

this is a book for me.

imagine coming across a bookstore that only carried "good books." now, this assessment is of course fraught with problems, "what makes a good book??", and all the accusations of elitism and highbrow glad-handery that goes with it. can only "difficult" books be good? or does it have more to do with the emotions that are evoked upon reading a "good" book and less about any intellectual travail that goes into the reading of it?

the bookstore in this novel toes the line, and most of the books mentioned are obscure, out of print titles (in this country, anyway) that are, yes, a little bit on the show-offy side. but there is much debate in this book about the selection process that went into choosing the books for the store's stock, and the choices have little to do with awards or canon or what "should" be read. rather, the books are selected for readerly appeal.

i am of two minds here. on the one hand, i agree with the sentiment that,

for as long as literature has existed, suffering, joy, horror, grace, and everything that is great in humankind has produced great novels. these exceptional books are often not very well-known, and are in constant danger of being forgotten, and in today's world, where the number of books being published is considerable, the power of marketing and the cynicism of business have joined forces to keep those extraordinary books indistinguishable from millions of insignificant, not to say pointless books.

but those masterful novels are life-giving. they enchant us. they help us to live. they teach us. it has become necessary to come to their defense and promote them relentlessly, because it is an illusion to think that they have the power to radiate all by themselves. that alone is our ambition...We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer's block, the author's panic at the thought that he might be lost: his discouragement, his courage, his anguish, his stubbornness, the risk of failure that he has taken.

but at the same time, i also concur that,

culture contains everything. there would be no peaks without valleys, gentle slopes, and meadows, at lower altitudes. the genius of democracy is a love for everything, to offer everything, value everything, and let individual freedom express its preferences here as elsewhere...and the key word, where culture and art are concerned, is pleasure!

because naturally, i appreciate the books that move me as a reader. i appreciate the craft that goes into writing, and when i read a book that articulates things that i feel only as a howl within myself, the impact is intense. but i also love the thrill of reading some silly monster erotica that doesn't answer life's great questions or keep me up nights pondering my place in the broad spectrum of humanity.

so were i in charge of running this bookstore, i would be torn. if readers' advisory courses have taught me anything, it is that there are no such thing as "good" books. only the great democracy of an individual reader's needs at that moment. and the same reader who has felt the power of proust's dissection of the human romantic experience can also be equally delighted reading about some kids on the run from zombies. i know, because that's me.

i run the fiction department of one of those giant chain bookstores. i have run it with an iron fist for years and years now. and i am damn good at it. and reading about these booksellers, trying to provide books that are powerful and evocative and important (ahhh, there's another tricky word), i feel a glow of solidarity. because that is something in which i firmly believe. i treat my department like an extension of myself, like an archive of every small press' warehouse, with as many books in translation as i can conceivably get in. and i display them lovingly, letting the james pattersons sell themselves, while i curate unexpected displays and tables of more out-of-the-way books that are less-known, less promoted, that can be stumbled upon and met with surprised cries of glee. and they aren't all difficult. some are just fun.

when we have the summer reading table up,which is mostly classics, one of the more annoying things that customers do and think they are, like, the only ones who have ever done this, is to impress their friends and point to all the books on the table: "read that. read that. read that." and then they get to one of "my" tables, and i constantly overhear people saying, "i've never even heard of any of these books." and that's what i want. the unexpected. so i completely appreciate the goal of the characters in this book - to create something unusual - a bookstore for readers, unswayed by the full-page ads in the newspapers or the "book of the moment." my ideal reader wants the unheard-of book, the serendipitous find. and how wonderful to have a store full of customers who are there for the books, not for the free a/c and the magazine stacks that they spill coffee all over while they wait for their movie to start down the street:

there were people until evening, people of all sorts, men and women of every age, with something in common that it took ivan all day to identify, in fact. something which explained why they remained calm, even when they had to step back to let their fellows pass them in the aisles, or wait to have their turn at a chosen shelf, or stand in line at the cash register: their relationship with their purchase had very little that was pecuniary about it, because their expense was not an expense and seemed deceptively like a reward, like at those good-cause flea markets where you didn't go to spend as little as possible but, on the contrary, to rid yourself of the heaviest part of yourself in the hopes of obtaining pure joy.

i love this.

so this book is a mystery and a love story, but its beating heart is its discussions of literature,l and its attempt to find the seam where enjoyability meets import.

it is a great read. and i do recommend it to anyone with a vested interest in promoting those "secret gem" titles that are held dear to the heart and bought for friends or reviewed on here with a "why has no one read this book??" plea, whether it be a dense tome by some dude in a tweed jacket or some book about having sex with a snowman.

a good book is a good book, if the heart deems it such.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,376 reviews12k followers
March 4, 2022

There you are, a booklover in Paris, walking the streets on a crisp day in autumn. To your delight, you've read there's a new bookstore recently opened, one specializing in fine literary novels from around the world. You know the address and you look forward to an enjoyable visit to The Good Novel.

For avid readers of excellent literature, such a bookstore would be a dream come true. If you are nodding your head in agreement, then A Novel Bookstore is for you. Really for you. Laurence Cossé's novel is a tribute to what it means to be a lover of quality fiction - not only reading such books but having every aspect of you inner and outer life touched by your reading. Europa Editions is to be commended for publishing a beautiful edition of the French author's 400-page novel translated into a smooth, eminently readable English by Alison Anderson.

A Novel Bookstore is a charming tale, in turn moving and inspiring - and so very French. By way of anecdote and intimate personal fine points, we come to know the backstory of a pair of bibliophiles - scruffy Ivan (called Van) and aristocratic Francesca and their vision of opening a unique Paris bookstore. As part of their plan, they assemble a secret committee of eight authors (identities known only by Van and Francesca) and ask each writer to list 600 novels to be stocked on their shelves. But then the unexpected: following the rousing success of the opening of their store, several committee members are attacked by unknown assailants (Laurence Cossé actually begins her novel by chronicling the attacks). Van and Francesca request a meeting with an Inspector Heffner who also so happens to be an appreciator of good books.

However, I'll shift from unfolding mystery and other subplots like Van falling in love with young bibliophile Anis to the heartbeat of A Novel Bookstore: good novels and the reading of novels - exactly the reason the vast majority of readers, myself included, have been drawn to this work in the first place.

One of the joys of reading A Novel Bookstore is listening in as fellow booklovers talk about books and writers. Case in point: Anis is reading Rapport aux bêtes by Noëlle Revaz, a novel Ivan thinks very highly of. The more Anis reads, the more and more enthralled she becomes. I've never heard of this Swiss author. I looked up what books of hers are available in English. One novel in particular caught my attention - Efina, about an obsessive love affair and exchange of letters between an aging actor and young theatergoer where their emotions bounce back and forth between attraction and repulsion. I'll be making this novel part of my personal library: I plan to read and review.

Swiss novelist Noëlle Revaz, born 1968

Likewise with Pierre Michon, also new to me, listed along with Patrick Modiano, Michel Rio, Christian Gailly and twenty-six other contemporary French authors that Francesca especially loves. I look forward to my reading and reviewing Michon's The Origin of the World, a short novel set in a sleepy French village probing the secret recesses of desire between a visiting young teacher and a stunningly attractive young lady with irresistible charms.

The success of The Good Novel exceeds all expectations. On opening day they sell 500 novels. FIVE HUNDRED! Readers proclaim: "At last! At last a bookstore where only superb novels are to be found. At last a real choice. At last you can be sure you won't be disappointed." Many of the book buyers become regulars. Customers act like associates and recommend some of their favorite novels and novelists deserving a place in The Good Novel.

As I was reading this section, I reflected on some of my own favorites not mentioned and deserving inclusion: Hygiene and the Assassin by Amélie Nothomb, The Ice Trilogy by Vladimir Sorokin, Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat, The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing. I could go on and on. When you click into the novel's vibe, I'm sure you will mentally compose your own list.

French novelist Pierre Michon, born 1945

As to be expected, The Good Novel has its naysayers. - journalists, critics, other booksellers, even some authors. Francesca and Van fire back with words eloquent and stirring:

"For as long as literature has existed, suffering, joy, horror, grace, and everything that is great in humankind has produced great novels.

"But those masterful novels are life-giving. They enchant us. They help us to live. They teach us. It has become necessary to come to their defense and promote them relentlessly, because it is an illusion to think that they have the power to radiate all by themselves. That along is our ambition.

"We want books that are written for those of us who doubt everything, who cry over the least little thing, who are startled by the slightest noise.

"We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer's block, the author's panic at the thought that he might be lost: his discouragement, his courage, his anguish, his stubbornness, the risk of failure that he has taken.

"We want splendid books, books that immerse us in the splendor of reality and keep us there; books that prove to us that love is at work in the world next to evil, right up against it, at times indistinctly, and that it always will be, just the way that suffering will always ravage hearts. We want good novels."

Recall I mentioned back there how, for a true booklover, a novel can touch every aspect of one's inner and outer life. Nobody knows the truth of this statement better than Francesca who found great support in books following the suicide of her teenage daughter.

Of course, while reading A Novel Bookstore you will surely see not everything that transpires is entirely realistic. But that's hardly the point. Laurence Cossé has written a novel about a love and passion enriching the lives of many sensitive, intelligent women, men and children across the globe. If you have made it to the end of my review, I strongly suspect you are among their number.

French author Laurence Cossé, born 1950

“Literature is a source of pleasure, he said, it is one of the rare inexhaustible joys in life, but it's not only that. It must not be disassociated from reality. Everything is there. That is why I never use the word fiction. Every subtlety in life is material for a book. He insisted on the fact. Have you noticed, he'd say, that I'm talking about novels? Novels don't contain only exceptional situations, life or death choices, or major ordeals; there are also everyday difficulties, temptations, ordinary disappointments; and, in response, every human attitude, every type of behavior, from the finest to the most wretched. There are books where, as you read, you wonder: What would I have done? It's a question you have to ask yourself. Listen carefully: it is a way to learn to live. There are grown-ups who would say no, that literature is not life, that novels teach you nothing. They are wrong. Literature performs, instructs, it prepares you for life.”
― Laurence Cossé, A Novel Bookstore
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,123 followers
June 7, 2011
I would like to say before I begin this review that I am a liar. Those five stars above are in many ways undeserved. They are certainly not given for any objective literary merit. They are not given for superior plotting (darlings, you thought I was that blind?) or suspense, for consistently admirable positions- whether political or otherwise (there is a reason that all the blurbs on the back of this book are taken from French newspapers that are standard bearers for the political right), for a cast of characters so lovable or love-to-hateable that one is irresistibly attached to them (no, they were something quite different), nor are they for Lolita prose so sublime as to render all other objections irrelevant (some copy editor at Europa was definitely drunk doing this one, and Cosse can get rather… well, French at times.) I’ll even admit that the first time I almost bought this, after Elizabeth posted her excellent review, I passed on it because I thought the first pages of another Europa release, The Most Beautiful Book in the World were better.

But when I finished this, I gave it five stars. I was going to change it after I got some distance from the book, but I decided against it. Why? Because of something Orhan Pamuk once wrote:

"Sometimes I sensed that the books I read in rapid succession had set up some sort of murmur among themselves, transforming my head into an orchestra pit where different musical instruments sounded out, and I would realize that I could endure this life because of these musicales going on in my head."

I’ve always loved this quote. I’ve always felt like this was something that I believed, as a book lover. I’ve had it written down for ages, and I look at it from time to time, satisfied that I’ve approved of something that sounds like the person I want to be. Cosse, though. In A Novel Bookstore she brings that quote to life, and shows me why I actually wrote it down, what I recognized about it. It was good news (or deeply unfortunate news, if you’re a rational person) for me- I’m a book person. I’m not just a girl with a lot of books trying to seem smart, escape the world, or keep up with the cool kids. I’m not a fraud! I recognized so much of myself: When Van and Francesca go to the police and it becomes clear that they can only relate the backstory they are about to tell the investigator as a fiction narrative, I smiled. When someone is caught for the first time lost in a book at a bookstore that they cannot pay for but have overcome their scruples to finish…well, because they couldn’t help it, I grinned. When our two protagonists start to make lists of their favorite books- oh, oh! That was the best! I loved it! When they call each other in the middle of the night because it is so terribly important that someone not be left out, when 300 novels each is too few to name all the good ones, when it devolves into prioritizing and itemizing and being willing and able to wade into complicated mathematical algorithms in order to create a literary paradise… that’s when I hugged it to my chest and laughed. It seemed like everyone’s reason for using goodreads- a brick-and-mortar, old-fashioned French version of it, in any case.

Whenever the plot veered off course and into the lands of political posturing and cloak-and-dagger conspiracies, Cossé would interrupt herself and remind us that talking about the books was what mattered. Ivan or Oscar or Francesca would stop the plot and talk about the book they read last night, which would lead to someone else doing the same, and then a scene where a man comes in breathless, sleepless with exhaustion and simply must have the rest of the love letters that author X wrote to his mistress right this very minute. The plot, the world, their lives changed, paused, took a different course because of the books, even if their lives went back to their original path later. It was an interesting counterpoint to the other reason she interrupted the flow of prose (which she did in the same way, interestingly)- to remind readers that other “big” news events are happening outside the narrative. At first, I thought she was a) doing herself a disservice because, well, that’s true and in comparison to genocide who cares? or b) annoying me and contradicting her own point in the book by talking to whatever critics were going to read this book and preempting criticism that she doesn’t look outside of her elite world. But then I decided I liked it- it’s illustrative of how tiny the world can be for a person who inhabits books. Miniscule. But it just can't get any bigger, unless it is forced to. I used to walk down streets reading a book. I still read books on the machines at the gym- and the only time that didn't work for me was when a nosy lady pushed her face next to mine and asked, “God, don’t you want some time for yourself?”- and the subway, and restaurants when waiting for someone, and at home. I nearly always prioritize finishing a good book over anything else I have to do- to my own detriment on many an occasion. (It is perhaps lucky that I don’t happen upon too many good books, or I’d probably have been fired many times over before this.)

This book is my answer to everyone who ever asked me if I wouldn’t rather go out to a club, or how I can carry that big book to work every day, or who yelled at me for not watching where I’m going. I am sorry, everyone. I really am! I’m going to start handing these books out as apologies for the times when I miss what you’re saying because I’m finishing a chapter, or when I’m 20 minutes late for dinner because I couldn’t catch my breath long enough to stop reading. Cosse celebrates this kind of reading. I love this book for many of the same reasons I loved Orlando. She understands and celebrates, and shines a kindly, soft light on people and a culture that can be cruel, selfish, childish, escapist, all of it. She admits it, but she tries to reach for all the complexity of it. Now, she is in no way as brilliant at this as Woolf was, neither in perception nor in writing, but I can see her intention, and there are moments… well, I explained those already. How do you not love a book that says it is for, “those of us who doubt everything, who cry over the least little thing, who are startled by the slightest noise,” and is about advocating for, “necessary books, books we can read a day after a funeral, when we have no tears left from our crying, when we can hardly stand for the pain; books that will be there like loved ones when we have tidied a dead child’s room and copied out her secret notes to have them with us, always and breathed in her clothes hanging from her wardrobe a thousand times, and there is nothing left to do.” It wasn’t only the Good Novel that I wanted to hang out in, I wanted to hang out with Cosse’s wonderfully structured understanding of the people who populated it. I want a whole book of stories that focus on each of the people who came to read there late at night and why, I want to follow them back out the door again. But Cosse didn’t show me that- because that isn’t the point. We saw what anyone else would see of someone who has obsessed about a book all night and can’t quite believe it is over- bleary eyes, unshaven faces, inability to exchange real, out-loud words from between dry lips.

I liked that- I didn’t want to know. I shouldn’t know. Cosse is wonderful about the things that you shouldn’t know. I loved her writing for that, too. She doesn’t only do this with the inner literary lives of her characters, but also with their emotional interactions with others. Francesca is a case in point here- we end up knowing what is going on with her, some of it. What the lady chooses to tell us. But beyond that, well, not only is it none of your goddamn business, but why would you want to know something that could only ruin a character? Could only ruin a narrative? Why is it important that every mystery is solved? Cossé uses Francesca as the poster-girl for a certain kind of argument about concealing not revealing with sexuality and attraction, but I thought the point was valid and relevant beyond that. She does the same thing with Anis, in a way. I loved how Cosse was able to show the shifting of inner barriers from thick walls to diaphanous floating silk. She created fragile moments that I winced to read where each of them exposed themselves and got smacked down. Either by themselves or by the undeserving man they showed a weakness to. I think she’s right about that overwhelming moment where feelings leap to your lips and the immediate damage control you have to go into afterwards- that is, if you’re a woman like this. I know a lot of women like this. What happened was unfair to both characters- I didn’t like the reveal about why they were the way they were- but I liked the depiction of the way they were. I was able to the way that they withdrew, no matter how many times they wanted to move forward. I think Cosse was able to capture a truth here (before she got over it at the end), about relationships vs. self protection, or perhaps about the importance of the Self over Only Connect, or about how much we discount the accumulation of time- what honesty of emotion we’re missing in an instant connection world. That could be about books too, I suppose. It probably is, too- in this novel one has to assume that. Was this an old French conservative railing about Them Kids with their hair, and their music and especially their Twitter? No. No. … A little bit. But it was also about how “a sincere girl can both look at a man tenderly and be unable to do anything but withdraw,” and how a man is “filled with joy at the thought that he had never been gratified with the sort of little meaningless kiss that merely proves in plain language that such effusiveness will go no further,” and includes a story about Karen Blixen that is “one of the most desperate things” our narrator has ever heard: “When she married Bror Blixen, loving him no more than he loved her, she made him agree to leave Denmark, where neither of them had any real reasons to remain, and she said to him.. ‘At least we’ll have done that, we’ll have gone away.” There are better, more nuanced things that characters feel and do than what happens to them at the end. Cosse should get absolute credit for that.

I don’t know what to say. I spent too much time thinking about book lists, about why Francesca would have liked Cormac McCarthy, about letter-writing and Anis’ short-story collections, about reading too “nationally”, about whatever charming thing angelic Oscar was saying, to care about whatever political argument she was having with Le Monde on the side. I got lost in my own little world, just like the characters. Perhaps you can fault me for that. Perhaps Cosse was counting on that reaction to a certain extent. What can I say? Touché, madame. You win.

If at this point you are now inclined to read this book, I would only remind you that even though I thought some things were worth five stars, it was hardly all on that level. If you still read it and don't like it, well:

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,971 reviews1,982 followers
June 11, 2022
Real Rating: 4.9* of five


My Review: Well, okay, see, this is a French novel, and it's really, really hard for a Murrikin like me to disentangle what French novels are about, like what the author set out to do, because the French don't really have the same rules we Murrikins do for novel-writing. It seems to be about two people, a rich, smart woman and a poor, smart man, who sorta kinda fall in love in a way and yet they don't because she's married to a major Philistine a-hole and he's in love, for some unfathomable reason, with this dreary little chickie half his age who seems drippy, useless, and uninteresting to *me* and, I suspect, to the rich lady too. So the rich lady does what rich people do best and unbelts with a big pile of gelt for the poor-but-smart dude to start this bookstore that will sell only novels, and only the best, the finest, the most ut of the lit'ry output of the planet, chosen by eight of the best (French) writers now writing. Hijinks ensue, which are frankly completely incredible (in its literal sense), but are lots of fun. What this book is *not* is any species of thriller or mystery; it's a French novel. That's what it is. No more, no less, no different. So, in the end, the Philistine husband and the poor-but-smart dude part ways but the store must go on, and the book's narrator is revealed, though I have to say it's not a huge surprise, though I think it's intended that way. The end, happily ever after but sadder and wiser.

I gave the book a generous 4.9 stars because it's one of those books that, while reading, goes wildly up and down the star scale; but in the end, cover closed, glasses chewed upon, assumes a different shape than the one that the reading process creates.

I'd recommend this book to all and sundry if only because of this passage, beautifully translated by the very talented Alison Anderson, on page 150 of the Europa edition:
Literature is a source of pleasure...it is one of the rare inexhaustible joys in life, but it's not only that. It must not be dissociated from reality. Everything is there. That is why I never use the word fiction. Every subtlety in life is material for a book....Have you noticed...that I'm talking about novels? Novels don't contain only exceptional situations, life or death choices, or major ordeals; there are also everyday difficulties, temptations, ordinary disappointments; and, in response, every human attitude, every type of behavior, from the finest to the most wretched. There are books where, as you read, you wonder: What would I have done? It's a question you have to ask yourself. Listen carefully: it is a way to learn to live. There are grown-ups who will say no, literature is not life, that novels teach you nothing. They are wrong. Literature informs, instructs, it prepares you for life.

If that passage rings you like the bell you wondered if you might be, then this book will speak to you and shape you a bit differently than you were before; if it seems tediously long, avoid this book like it's got herpes, because you'll hate it.

*gooonnnggg* goes my spirit.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,733 reviews477 followers
October 23, 2019
"A Novel Bookstore" is a beautiful tribute to fine literature. Bookseller Ivan and heiress Francesca open a bookstore in Paris that sells only good literature chosen by a secret committee of eight novelists. The store with its high quality books and comfy couches is very successful at first. But then the bookstore comes under attack online and in other media by what seems to be an organized group determined to stop a new trend quickly. Is it a publisher, a writer, or a prize judge whose books have not been chosen? Publishing is a big business dependent on selling the newest books, and there are lots of people earning a paycheck from the industry. Some thugs physically attack people associated with the bookstore. An investigator is brought in, although there is no tidy ending to the mystery.

The best parts of the book were about the relationships of the main characters as friends and romantic partners, the authors in the secret committee, and the booksellers' deep love of literature. Francesca published a letter written from the heart about her love of good books. I found myself rereading it several times since it expresses the feelings of a true bibliophile, and included a small portion of it.

"We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer's block, the author's panic at the thought that he might be lost: his discouragement, his courage, his anguish, his stubbornness, the risk of failure he has taken.

We want splendid books, books that immerse us in the splendor of reality and keep us there; books that prove to us that love is at work in the world next to evil, right up against it, at times indistinctly, and that it always will be, just the way that suffering will always ravage hearts. We want good novels."
Profile Image for Felice.
250 reviews82 followers
December 15, 2010
Umm...yeah. Part of the premise of this novel is that the bookstore of the title only stocks the best novels available. All I need to tell you is that they would not stock A Novel Bookstore.
March 15, 2021
Περί ελιτίστικης λογοτεχνίας και λοιπών αναγνωστικών παρακρούσεων.

Πέρασαν δέκα χρόνια από την τελευταία φορά που διάβασα το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο. Προφανώς εκείνη την εποχή πρέπει να το είχα βρει αρκούντως αριστουργηματικό, σε σημείο π��υ να το δωρίζω στους φίλους μου υποχρεώνοντάς τους να ασπαστούν τον ενθουσιασμό μου (οι φίλοι μου είναι τέρατα υπομονής και ανεκτικότητας. Εγώ από την άλλη είμαι τέρας σκέτο).

Δεν θυμάμαι αν εκείνη την εποχή φορούσα αυτοσχέδιο καπέλο από αλουμινόχαρτο. Το σίγουρο είναι πως πλέον δεν συμφωνώ με τις ιδέες και τις απόψεις που είχα τότε. Και σχεδιάζω σύντομα να ξαναδιαβάσω κι άλλο βιβλίο της Laurence Cossé (από το πρωτότυπο αυτήν τη φορά, έχω στην κατοχή μου μια κόπια του "Le coin du voile") νομίζω πως αποτελεί μια πιο πουριτανική εκδοχή του Michel Houellebecq, καίτοι δεν τον χωνεύει και το δηλώνει ρητώς και κατηγορηματικώς:

Το μοναδικό βιβλιοπωλείο στη Γαλλία που δεν διαθέτει στοίβες του τελευταίου Ουελμπέκ. (σελ. 325)

Το μοναδικό αυτό Παριζιάνικο βιβλιοπωλείο, που δεν πουλάει Houellebecq αλλά μόνο μυθιστορήματα αρίστης ποιότητος, ονομάζεται "Au bon roman" και το συνέλαβε η δημιουργική φαντασία της Cossé προκειμένου να μας μυήσει σε έναν ακόμα αγώνα υπέρ λογοτεχνικών βωμών και βιβλιοφιλικών εστιών. Είναι ένας χώρος προορισμένος να ταράξει τα λιμνάζοντα ύδατα του εμπορικού, ευπώλητου βιβλίου δημιουργώντας ένα κίνημα Ποιοτικών Αναγνωστών Συγγραφικώς Ορθοδόξων Κειμένων. Τι να αντιτάξει κανείς απέναντι σε ένα τέτοιο μεγαλόπνοο όραμα;

Μέσα στο μυθιστόρημα υπάρχουν δύο σχολές σκέψης, απέναντι στις οποίες η συγγραφέας δεν κρατάει μια αντικειμενική στάση. Έχει διαλέξει στρατόπεδο από την πρώτη κιόλας παράγραφο του βιβλίου της. Και οι ήρωές της δεν είναι απλοί λογοτεχνικοί χαρακτήρες αλλά μάρτυρες και σταυροφόροι. Παραθέτω ενδεικτικά:

Για να μας απαξιώσουν επικαλέστηκαν τον δήθεν ελιτισμό μας, τη δέσμευσή μας να σεβαστούμε τη λογοτεχνική αξία, που κατηγορήθηκε ως αντιδραστική, έναν σκοτεινό δεσμό μεταξύ βιβλιοπωλείου και μεγάλου κεφαλαίου [...] Από τότε που υπάρχει λογοτεχνία, ο πόνος η χαρά, η φρίκη, η χάρις, ό,τι μεγάλο υπάρχει στον άνθρωπο, γέννησε μεγάλα μυθιστορήματα. Αυτά τα εξαιρετικά βιβλία είναι συχνά παραγνωρισμένα, κινδυνεύουν να μείνουν ξεχασμένα εσαεί, και σήμερα όπου ο αριθμός των εκδόσεων έχει αυξηθεί σημαντικά, η δύναμη του μάρκετινγκ και ο κυνισμός του εμπορίου, επιδιώκουν να τα εξομοιώσουν με εκατομμύρια ασήμαντα βιβλία, για να μη πω μάταια [...]

Δεν μπορούμε να γράφουμε μόνο ασήμαντα βιβλία, βιβλία κούφια, βιβλία φτιαγμένα για ν' αρέσουν. Δεν τα θέλουμε αυτά τα πρόχειρα βιβλία, τα γραμμένα στο γόνατο [...] Θέλουμε βιβλία που να μην παραγνωρίζουν τίποτα από την ανθρώπινη τραγωδία, τίποτα από τα καθημερινά θαύματα, βιβλία που να γεμίσουν πάλι τα πνευμόνια μας με αέρα
(σελ. 287 -288)

Οι υποστηρικτές του αντίπαλου στρατοπέδου ισχυρίζονται τα εξής:

Αν υπάρχουν κορυφές, είχε πει ο υπουργός [...] είναι γιατί υπάρχουν βουνά. Η κουλτούρα είναι ένα σύνολο. Δεν θα υπήρχαν κορυφές αν δεν υπήρχαν τα υποστρώματα, οι ομαλές πλαγιές και τα λιβάδια, σε πιο χαμηλά υψόμετρα. Το πνεύμα της δημοκρατίας είναι να αγαπάς το σύνολο, να εξυψώνεις το σύνολο και ν' αφήνεις την ατομική ελευθερία να εκφράζει και εδώ, όπως αλλού, τις προτιμήσεις της. Εμένα ας πούμε, κατέληξε παρασυρμένος από τη δημαγωγία, μ' αρέσουν τα βιβλία περιπετειών και οι ταινίες εποχής γιατί είναι δια-σκε- δα-στι-κά και γιατί η δεσπόζουσα λέξη της κουλτούρας και της τέχνης είναι η απόλαυση. (σελ. 292)

Στην πραγματικότητα όμως το αντίπαλο στρατόπεδο είναι:

ένα υποσύνολο ανθρώπων που έχουν ως κοινό τους σημείο ότι θεωρούν το βιβλίο κάτι που μπορεί να φέρει τεράστια κέρδη, και τη λογοτεχνία σαν χρυσοφόρο κοίτασμα [...] και φοβούνται ν' αρμενίσουν στο σκοτάδι αν ποτέ η επιτυχία του Au bon roman έχει ως αποτέλεσμα την αναπάντεχη αναγέννηση μιας πρακτικής που τη θεωρούν παρωχημένη: τη δίκαιη αναγνώριση του ταλέντου. (σελ. 399)

Ποιος θα μπορούσε να τα πάρει στα σοβαρά όλα αυτά; Κι όμως τα πίστευα όλα αυτά κάποτε. Γιατί άλλαξα όμως γνώμη; Γιατί άλλαξε το αξιακό μου σύστημα. Σε ένα ιδεολογικό επίπεδο δεν πιστεύω πλέον στο απόλυτο Καλό, οπότε αυτομάτως δεν πιστεύω ούτε στο απόλυτο Κακό. Αυτό που κάνει η Cossé είναι να δανείζεται ψήγματα από την πραγματικότητα και να τα ανασυνθέτει με τρόπο ώστε να εξυπηρετούν τη δική της αφήγηση. Βασικά αυτό ακριβώς κάνει η λογοτεχνία. Είναι μια υποκειμενική ματιά επάνω στα πράγματα.

Κατ' επέκταση εφόσον δεν υπάρχει απόλυτα Καλό Μυθιστόρημα δεν υπάρχει επίσης ούτε απόλυτα Κακό Μυθιστόρημα. Υπάρχει μια πληθώρα λογοτεχνικών ειδών και μια ακόμα μεγαλύτερη γκάμα βιβλίων και ένα αξιολογικό φάσμα το οποίο κυμαίνεται ανάλογα με το ποιόν, τις διαθέσεις και τις επιδιώξεις του κάθε αναγνώστη. Διαφορετικά διαβάζει αυτός που ετοιμάζει τη διδακτορική διατριβή του, διαφορετικά αυτός που κάνει ηλιοθεραπεία στην ξαπλώστρα του και ο "Αυτός" μπορεί να είναι το ένα και αυτό πρόσωπο, σε διαφορετικές φάσεις της ζωής και της καθημερινότητάς του.

Ακολούθως, όταν αξιολογώ ένα βιβλίο ως κακό, αυτό δεν σημαίνει πως το βιβλίο είναι όντως κακό. Σημαίνει πως δεν βρήκα σε αυτό όσα χρειάζομαι ή το περιεχόμενό του δεν απευθύνεται σε εμένα ή όπως στην προκειμένη περίπτωση με την Cossé, διαφωνώ μαζί του ιδεολογικά καίτοι αναγνωρίζω πως είναι γραμμένο με έναν τρόπο που με θέλγει. Έχω κάθε δικαίωμα να εκφράσω τη δυσφορία και τη διαφωνία μου απέναντι σε ένα βιβλίο παράλληλα όμως οφείλω να γνωρίζω πως το ίδιο βιβλίο μπορεί παρέχει σε κάποιον άλλον αναγνώστη μια εξαιρετικά ευχάριστη και εποικοδομητική εμπειρία. Αν συμπεράνω πως επειδή το τάδε βιβλίο μου φάνηκε κακό, άρα όποιος το θεωρεί καλό είναι εξίσου κακός με το βιβλίο, διαπράττω ένα λογικό άλμα.

Υπάρχουν ωστόσο αντικειμενικά αξιολογικά κριτήρια στη λογοτεχνία και στην τέχνη; Νννναι. Βασικά υπάρχει ένας Κανόνας για κάθε κατηγορία. Ο καθένας μπορεί να προμηθευτεί μια ιστορία της Ευρωπαϊκής ή της Παγκόσμιας Λογοτεχνίας και να φτιάξει τη λίστα του. Στο σήμερα ωστόσο, στο παρόν, επειδή το μελάνι είναι ακόμα νωπό και τα βιβλία δεν έχουν υποστεί τη δοκιμασία του χρόνου δεν μπορούμε να γνωρίζουμε με βεβαιότητα ποια έργα θα "κανονικοποιηθούν" μελλοντικώς. Αλλά δεν καταλαβαίνω γιατί αυτό πρέπει να μας προκαλεί δυσφορία ως αναγνώστες.

Αν δεν βρίσκουμε τα λογοτεχνικά έργα που μας ενδιαφέρουν, αυτό δεν σημαίνει πως δεν υπάρχουν. Τουναντίον σημαίνει ή πως δεν ξέρουμε πού και πώς να ψάξουμε για να τα βρούμε ή πως δεν ξέρουμε τι ακριβώς θέλουμε. Και όταν νιώθουμε δυσφορία συχνά προσπαθούμε να τη μεταδώσουμε σε κάποιον άλλο με την ψευδαίσθηση πως θα φύγει από πάνω μας, για να προσκολληθεί στο άτομο που στοχοποιούμε και που σε τελική ανάλυση γίνεται το εξιλαστήριο θύμα μας. Φταίνε οι διεφθαρμένοι εκδοτικοί κολοσσοί, οι εθισμένες στα ρομάντζα γυναικούλες, το σαθρό εκπαιδευτικό σύστημα, το Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού, η έκπτωση των ηθικών αξιών, ο Ερμής που είναι ανάδρομος.

Αυτό δεν σημαίνει πως δεν υπάρχουν προβλήματα και παθογένειες στον εκδοτικό και ευρύτερο καλλιτεχνικό χώρο. Επίσης όντως κάποιοι άνθρωποι έχουν τα χρήματα και τις διασυνδέσεις ώστε να εκδώσουν και να προωθήσουν βιβλία σε αντίθεση με άλλους που μοιραία παραγκωνίζονται. Υπάρχει λογοκλοπή, αναγνωστικός οπαδισμός και τα κέρατά μας τα δίφορα. Γι' αυτό είναι σημαντικό να μιλάμε, να γράφουμε και να διαβάζουμε ό,τι θέλουμε.

Είναι σημαντικό να αναζητούμε και να επιδιώκουμε το καλύτερο για εμάς. Αλλά για να μπορέσουμε να το κάνουμε αυτό πρέπει και οι άλλοι να μπορούν να κάνουν ακριβώς το ίδιο. Και σε άλλους τομείς της ζωής τα πράγματα είναι περισσότερο δύσκολα αλλά στον τομέα της λογοτεχνίας πιστεύω πως υπάρχει χώρος για όλους, όλες και όλα.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,117 reviews1,878 followers
June 14, 2011
First things first, thank you so much, Elizabeth, for this book!

I loved this book, and it wasn't just because I saw a little bit of Karen and myself and the ways we try to promote 'good' books over the onslaught of 'not-so-good' books. Of course we work in an evil corporate bookstore, but along with others at our particular evil corporate bookstore I think we do a fairly good job at fighting the good fight, so to speak. Elizabeth already wrote an excellent review for this book, and it has the quote I would use if I were going to review the book, so you should just go read her review.

Instead of a review I'm going to share two of my favorite bookstores.

This is my all-time favorite bookstore and sadly it's rare I ever get to visit it. It's called Dove and Hudson and it's located on the corners of Dove and Hudson Streets in downtown Albany. This is what it looks like:

[image error]

It is run by this man:

He is quite knowledgeable about books and he eschews technology. When you buy a giant pile of books from him he will always add up the price of the order in his head and then afterwards check himself against a calculator. He's almost always correct, oh and while he's doing that he usually carries on a conversation with you about the books you have chosen to buy. Out of all the bookstores I've ever gone to, this one is the closest to the one described in this novel. He only carries 'good' books. This is where I bought Infinite Jest! See he carries good books! The store isn't the largest used bookstore, it's actually a fairly small store, but there is no crap and all of the books are in great condition. Oh, and the prices are pretty good too and each time you spend ten dollars at the store he gives you a purple dollar which is good for one dollar off another purchase, not that I think most customers need an incentive to return to this wonderful store.

My second favorite bookstore is in Schuylerville, New York, and it's called Old Saratoga Books. Here is what it looks like:

And this is what the bookstore looks like from the inside with Asians, I've never personally seen any Asians in the store, but it's good to know that they weren't lynched by the hicks that live in the area.

And this is Sam, the cat that lives in the bookstore:

and more pictures of him can be seen here:


He's super-friendly and has on more than one occasion stood on my back as I was kneeling over to look for books.

What I love about this store is that some of the best stuff seems to turn up there. The husband and wife that run the store have a good eye for picking up 'good' books even if they are not familiar with them. They also have a good selection of mass markets, all priced at one dollar. It's a great place to load up on not-so-good reading or to get cheap copies of just about any classic you can think of. I love this bookstore and I try to visit it a few times every time I visit my parents. I think part of the greatness of this bookstore is that it is in an out of the way town so there isn't that much competition among book buyers to find the literary gems that pop up here. They also have a pretty awesome bathroom that has walls covered with advertisements for other used bookstores in the North East along with other 'bookish' things to peruse while you are doing your business.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
791 reviews
April 22, 2017
A bookshop with space to linger and permission to read as much as you like.
A bookshop where the latest prize winners aren’t automatically promoted.
A book shop where you won’t come across stacks and stacks of current blockbusters.
A bookshop full of good novels you already know and many more waiting to be discoverd.
Such is the uncomplicated dream of this novel’s main characters when they decide to open Au Bon Roman on rue Duypuytrin in the centre of Paris.
But who should decide what is good?
And what about those novels which don’t make the grade?
And how does all this go down with the moguls in the publishing industry?
The dream turns out to be more complicated than predicted and it seems to this reader that the very publishing industry which she criticises has obliged the author, Laurance Cossé to introduce the kind of sensationalist page turning plot twists that detract from what might otherwise have been a ‘good novel’.
Profile Image for Maria Olga Lectoraapasionada.
311 reviews105 followers
January 22, 2021

No estoy de acuerdo en muchas de las cosas que se dicen en la novela, lo que más me gusta es la lista de libros que apunte, fue como visitar un biblioteca y que los libros te contaran sus opiniones sobre las historias que llevan dentro.

Como todo en la vida hay cosas que nos gustan a unos y a otros no, una gran diferencia entre decir esto es malo o bueno. Que no te guste algo no significa que sea malo, y que te guste algo no significa que sea bueno.

Fue una agradable lectura, con algunos peros y algunos desacuerdos que me trajo su lectura, pero en definitiva fue una buena lectura, también llena de fantásticas citas y sobre todo es que me hizo pararme mucho a reflexionar y eso me encanta en un libro, que me haga pensar, que me haga enfadarme y en otra ocasiones darle la razón. Fue como una relación amor odio lo que sentí con ese libro.

Extractos del libro:

De todas las cosas para las que sirve la literatura, su ejemplo me confirma que una de las más gratificantes es la de conseguir que personas hechas para entenderse se reconozcan entre ellas y entablen comunicación.
Profile Image for Jenny.
197 reviews
January 18, 2012
I don't know. I didn't get this book at all. Really, the plot is very simple: a wealthy woman and a bookseller decide to open a store called "The Good Novel" where they sell only, wait for it, good novels. This is supposed to be some kind of revolutionary movement that will change society for the better. Then they, and the famous authors who decide what constitutes a good novel, begin to be attacked. Because this store is so threatening. Also there are random love affairs. And then midway through I realized I had no idea who the narrator of the book was because it switched from third to first person.

And all of this takes many, many more pages than you would think, and yet after I finished it all I had no idea what all those pages were doing. I also don't buy for a second that anyone would care if one snobby bookstore opened, and I found it irritating that the author seemed to have no awareness of cultural capital or hegemony or reception theory or any of the million critiques of the notion of a "good" piece of art. I don't think opening snotty canonical bookstores is a "movement" (Occupy Barnes and Noble?). But more importantly, I don't think anybody else on the whole planet would be threatened enough to physically harm someone who did open a snotty bookstore. So the whole thing made no sense to me really. Maybe because it's a French novel? Maybe people in Paris really do have this kind of time and resources on their hands?

Anyway, the book jacket describes it as being like an Agatha Christie novel and I suspect the person who wrote that blurb has never READ an Agatha Christie novel because the two things are in no way related. Also, wouldn't Agatha Christie be a little lowbrow for the snotty bookstore?
Profile Image for Stratos.
895 reviews92 followers
January 19, 2022
Θαυμάσιο βιβλίο που πέρασε δυστυχώς αθόρυβα από τον ελληνικό χώρο του βιβλίου. Μας άρεσε, μας συγκίνησε σαν ένα καλό μυθιστόρημα.....
Profile Image for Elizabeth La Lettrice.
209 reviews32 followers
January 20, 2019
"He is eager to deliver his letters rogatory, and is somewhat excited: a rather unusual matter, just imagine, the victim is literature."

I am not sure how best to describe how much I loved this book. It is impossible not to love. If you are a lover of literature, bookstores, and well.. all things literary, then this is definitely the book for you. I was so pleased to see how contemporary it was. At times, the author/narrator took moments to reflect on the "greater" issues going on in the world. This only helped give the sense of how the main characters (and bookstore founders), had such little intentions of creating a stir in the politics of the world (how they were wrong!) - which made the reactions that followed all the more serious. They thought that by opening a store that featured only "good novels" chosen by a secret commitee of contemporary [French] literary greats, they would create their own ideal bookstore. However, the ramifications of their unexpected success turned the publishing world completely upside-down. Some direct results of their project, mirrored in the sales of the store and later slowly trickling outward, included out of print titles becoming increasingly popular, calling for reprints - and new titles from "pop" authors going largely unnoticed.

This concept is incredibly interesting to me. Though I always favor printed books, I do own an ereader and occasionally stroll through the ebook sites for new reads. You cannot ignore the massive amounts of self-published GARBAGE out there. Yes, I said it. GARBAGE. Not all of it is, I'm sure. However, I can't help but wish there was some sort of "quality policing" out there. As much as editors can be fickle and miss out on some great works, I truly believe the filtering that is a major part of their jobs is a benefit to us fickle readers. I don't want to waste my time on garbage. There is simply not enough time in this world for me to read all of the Good Novels as it is. There is a quote that I am going to steal from Elizabeth's review that gives a great feel for the general theme of this novel and is a quote that so many can relate to:

"We want necessary books, books we can read the day after the funeral, when we have no tears left from all our crying, when we can hardly stand for the pain; books that will be there like loved ones when we have tidied a dead child's room and copied out her secret notes to have them with us, always[...].

We have no time to waste on insignificant books, hollow books, books that are there to please.

We have no time for those sloppy, hurried books[...].

We want books that are written for those of us who doubt everything, who cry over the least little thing, who are startled by the slightest noise.

We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer's block, the author's panic at the thought that he might be lost: his discouragement, his courage, his anguish, his stubbornness, the risk of failure that he has taken."

With this is mind, that is why I love Goodreads. ANY book that I have an inkling of interent in must pass the tests of the faithful Goodreads reviewers. YOU GUYS ARE MY COMMITTEE. The best part, however, is that I can get a feel from your tastes to gage how I will take your review. Someone with completely different interests as mine will not have a review that I take as seriously.

This was my first reading of this novel and I was so completely absorbed that I couldn't possibly stop to note all of the titles that I wanted to look into or all of the quotes that I wanted to save. (In fact, I was completely surprised that more quotes weren't listed on the title's Goodreads page.) This book definitely deserves a second reading. There is just so much to take out of it for us book lovers to devour. If you shared this dilemma, I suggest the Good Novel website which actually lists all of the books mentioned in A Novel Bookstore under the tab "Books at the Good Novel"(it appears that way anyway):


Let me know what you think! :)
193 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2011
Well,now, what to say about this literary non thriller set in Paris. Let's see, it has a terrific opening that led me to believe it would be a mystery about books and book lovers. But that hope was dashed when the owners begin telling the tale of the Novel Bookstore to the police. Convoluted to say the least and really not all that riveting, but I was charmed by the idea of a bookstore devoted only to great literature. The problem being, of course, who is to decide what constitutes great. The owners form a secret committee to create a list. Why this need for secrecy eluded me. The store is a great success and problems begin. The writers and publishers who are not included get huffy. So huffy things become dangerous. Actually this sounds more interesting than it was. Too much detail, an uninteresting love story, and the "who dunnit" aspect is completely lost. In fact it gets tiresome. Books are discussed but not in a particularly compelling manner. I wanted better book talks, I guess.
The idea of the book seems to be that people want a return to selective bookstores. Many of us are tired of mega bookstores where you have to wade through tons of schlock to get to the good stuff.
I love small bookstores where the stock indicates selectivity by the owners. I love whimsical displays suggesting "Here are some books you might like". Mega bookstores tend to overwhelm me by offering too much. So I congratulate Mme Cosse on the idea behind her book but wish her execution had been better.
Profile Image for Xenia Germeni.
308 reviews36 followers
November 22, 2015
"Θέλουμε βιβλία χρήσιμα, βιβλία που να μπορούμε να τα διαβάσουμε την επομένη της κηδείας, όταν δεν έχουμε πια άλλα δάκρυα, όταν δεν μπορούμε ούτε να σταθούμε στα πόδια μας, έτσι όπως μας έχει απανθρακώσει ο πόνος ˙βιβλία που να είναι εκεί σαν συγγενείς όταν έχουμε να συγυρίσει το δωμάτιο του νεκρού παιδιού, έχουμε αντιγράψει το ημερολόγιό του για να το έχουμε πάντα μαζί μας, έχουμε μυρίσει χιλιάδες φορές τα ρούχα του στη σ��εγνώστρα, κι όταν δεν μπορύμε πια να κάνουμε τίποτα...βιβλία για τις νύχτες όπου παρά την εξάντλησή μας, δεν μπορούμε να κοιμηθούμε και δε θέλουμε άλλο απ' το να μπορέσουμε να απαλλαγούμε από εικόνες που μας στοιχειώνουν....
Θέλουμε βιβλία που να μην παραγνωρίζουν τίποτα από την ανθρώπινη τραγωδία, τίποτα από τα καθημρινά θαύματα. Βιβλία που να γεμίσουν πάλι τα πνευμόνια μας με αέρα".-η Φραντσέσκα...αυτή θα ηθελα να γινω όταν μεγαλωσω! Σημειωση: 1) αν δεν εχετε υπομονη μην διαβασετε το βιβλιο, 2) αν δεν αγαπατε ΠΡΑΓΜΑΤΙΚΑ τα βιβλια και ειδικα τη λογοτεχνια ΜΗΝ ΤΟ ΔΙΑΒΑΣΕΤΕ, 3) εαν δεν αντεχετε τις πολλες σημειωσεις μην το διαβασετε, 4) εαν δεν αντεχετε τα γαλλικα βιβλια μην μπιετε στον κοπο...5) ΕΑΝ ΘΕΛΕΤΕ ΝΑ ΑΝΑΠΝΕΥΣΕΤΕ ΔΙΑΒΑΣΤΕ ΤΟ!
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,851 followers
October 16, 2010
The gentle tone of this understated novel belies its passion. The passion lies not in the wistful but tepid love affairs of its principal characters, Ivan and Francesca, nor in the acts of spite and revenge committed by anonymous villains. Its passion is centered on a devotion to literature, on a celebration of the novel in its purest and finest form.

Francesca, the lonely and elegant wife of a Parisian captain of industry, and Ivan, an erstwhile adventurer and seller of comic books and classic novels, combine forces to open a bookstore in the heart of Paris that has one simple goal: to sell only good novels. They form a secret committee of eight celebrated writers, asking each to submit a list of six hundred titles. These, along with their own choices, form the inventory that fills the shelves of their dream book boutique, The Good Novel.

Little do Francesca and Ivan anticipate or understand the firestorm of derision, envy and loathing they unleash within the publishing industry and literati by opening a bookstore that narrowly and exclusively defines what is a Good Novel. Though The Good Novel quickly builds a worldwide following of admirers and subscribers, its owners become the target of vituperative editorials by untraceable academics and libelous slams by internet prowlers. Members of the secret selection committee become targets of attacks that veer perilously close to attempted murder. The thread of the novel follows loosely the path of investigation into these threats by a sympathetic, erudite detective inspector.

My enthusiasm for A Novel Bookstore is less for the confectionery characters and a playfully surreal plot (though it is hard to resist Cossé’s delight in unspooling this tale; it reads in the same refined and distant manner as The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which must be a signature style of translator Alison Anderson). Rather, it is for the way its passionate intent makes me feel and think. I reflected on the power and beauty of the novel and, even more importantly, on what is truly worthy of my reading time. In their well-lighted space with its strategically placed sofas, Francesca and Ivan want nothing more than to offer their customers the opportunity to discover literature that was written with integrity, passion and truth.

Francesca uses an open letter in a respected Parisian daily newspaper to respond to the attacks from writers whose works were deliberately excluded, from literary prize committees that have long assumed the role of arbiter of novels, and from the powerful publishing agencies that serve as cultural gatekeepers. Her cri de cœur articulates beautifully the vision of The Good Novel:

"...masterful novels are life-giving. They enchant us. They help us to live. They teach us. It has become necessary to come to their defense and promote them relentlessly, because it is an illusion to thing that they have the power to radiate all by themselves.

We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer’s block, the author’s panic…the risk of failure that he has taken.

We want splendid books, books that immerse us in the splendor of reality and keep us there; books that prove to us that love is at work in the world next to evil, right up against it... We want good novels.

We want books that leave nothing out: neither human tragedy nor everyday wonders, books that bring fresh air to our lungs.

And even if there is only one such book per decade… that would be enough. We want nothing else.”

The imaginary bookstore has a real presence on the web: www.thegoodnovel.com You can peruse some of what’s on offer and imagine what your dream bookstore would carry. Alas, amidst the Austen and Twain, my shop would feature sections overflowing with tomes on food and wine, heaps of travel literature and guides. Feel free to curl up in an overstuffed wing chair near the 18th century Europeans and lose yourself for an afternoon…
Profile Image for Regina Andreassen.
315 reviews48 followers
March 23, 2022
A unique storyline, a satisfying -albeit at times frustrating, reading experience. I applaud Cossé’s courage to write this novel. This is a manifesto intended to honour great literature; a book whose message will not escape to those readers who, like me, find great pleasure in good, classical masterpieces and greatly admire writers like Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Rimbaud, among others of that stature. In essence, A Novel Bookstore critiques the current publishing and literary standards as well the current commercial publishing furore. Oh where have our standards gone? I often wonder! Now, you can see that I have not rated this book, I prefer not to rate this novel because although the book is technically flawed and can be greatly improved, its originality and purpose makes A Novel Bookstore memorable, thought-provoking, and necessary, and I do not think rating it with Goodreads 'stars' can reflect this.

Many readers will find their views reflected in A Novel Bookstore, however, this book may be also perceived as highly polemic by a significant sector of readers. I am part of the former group: I am definitely a snob when it comes to literature and I think that most novels available now are , in their majority, mediocre; there I said it! There are some lines that Larry de Winter, a character of A Novel Bookstore, utters and which reflect my own views:
'I have never dreamt of either success or money. I don't think about it. It is elegance that interests me. I mean elegance in the broadest sense -intellectual, moral, physical, elegance in one's relation with other people' (p.143)

I commenced reading A Novel Bookstore with much excitement. I particularly enjoyed the initial seven chapters of A Novel Bookstore, which were slightly humorous and elegantly written. I was grateful reading the references to great works written by classic authors and, I identified with the literary taste of the protagonists of the novel and also with most of their views of the current book publishing trends. This may be infantile but I must add it: You should have seen how happy I felt and how widely I smiled each time they mentioned Stendhal! I felt like jumping around! Stendhal is so often overlooked in the English speaking world yet he is one of the greatest writers in the history of literature. The same applies to Balzac! Literature connoisseurs would never overlook these two brilliant, exquisite writers!

Back to the book. The protagonists of A Novel Bookstore are Van and Francesca. Van and Francesca’s literary preferences mirror mine closely. Like them, I do consider myself a book snob; also like them, I can be very judgemental -but I am becoming far more accepting of modern literature . I too, like Van and Francesca, prefer to re-read great books several times than buying new books which explore unoriginal and predictable topics, in these books it often becomes evident that the author is pushing a particular agenda, rather than providing a complex exploration of a character's inner-world in a sophisticated or skilful manner. Van and Francesca stand firmly against mediocrity in the publishing world, that is why I found them very relatable.

In A Novel Bookstore’s story, Francesca and Iván open a niche bookstore which aims to satisfy and fulfill the expectations of the most discerning readers, who as a whole are the main -or I rather say only- target market of their store. Initially Van and Francesca's bookstore succeeds but the concept behind the bookstore offends many people who feel that the bookstore's mere existence, Is an insult to readers who prefer Dan Brown or Danielle Steel. Is is true, Van and Francesca do judge the literary taste of the majority of readers and best-selling authors, whose books they do not have in store or are unwilling to ever have there, but they do it but offering a much-needed alternative. They critics go beyond this. The critics see Van and Francesca's attitudes to conceit, as it is clearly that these two good lovers, are attributing a superior status in literary matters to people who share Van and Francesca’s literary taste and reservations. As a result of this, Francesca and Van are accused of being elitist, prejudiced, and conservative. This posits the question? Should we care if our reading choices have the potential to offend other people and that not embracing some genres makes us intolerant? Should a bookstore cater to all tastes even if the owners strongly dislike what half of the readers seem to prefer? Personally, I don't believe a bookstore should cater to all, and neither did Francesca and Van; after all, there is no one single bookstore that has all books available on store or 'on request'. A Novel Bookstore tells us that story...and more!

Now, let’s discuss my initial impression of the book and what happened after I read the first chapters. The first seven chapters of A Novel Bookstore were excellently written. Those were, to me, the most enjoyable of all. I particularly enjoyed the subtle witty observations. Alas, by chapter 10 the focus of the storyline switches and the writing style starts to suffer. This change is conspicuous, but as a reader I remained invested in the story. My reading experience could be better described as walking through a land in which you can find glittery ponds with beautiful flowers and foliage, especially at the centre of the land, but then find out that all this is surrounded by cactus, dried grass, and much preventable aridity. To put it simply: I experienced genuine joy and delight, but also much boredom. Why? Because I do have an issue with the book: the love story. I do not find it necessary at all; in my opinion, the ‘romance’ affects the fluidity of the writing and diminishes the impact of the main message that I sense the author is tying to convey. Each time that the focus was taken away from the books and redirected to the so-called ‘love story’ I felt frustrated; to me that storyline was expendable. The love for great books - which ‘no one’ buys anymore and many which are possible already out of print- is what truly captivated me. Oh, and how I wished that rather than just listing or referring to some books the characters took the time discuss some of them in more detail.

I also found the ‘crime’ plot to be contrived and unconvincing. There were also many superfluous descriptions and incidents that did not add much value to the narrative. I believe that Laurence Cossé, the author, has the capacity to explore the same core subject in a more effective, succinct, clever, an aesthetically stimulating way than what Cossé did here. The initial chapters are a clear example of the author’s talent. Obviously, there is also the possibility that much was lost in translation; this must be considered.

In summary, A Novel Bookstore is an interesting book which addresses the modern phenomenon of what I believe is the 'MacDonalization' -a term coined by sociologist George Ritzer - of the book publishing industry and of fiction writing. I deeply connected to A Novel Bookstore’s main subject but the execution of the story could be greatly improved. The book does need further editing, yet, I am certain that the average reader will appreciate the subject and if you consider yourself to be a ‘book snob', as I do, you will find that the main premise of this book is exactly what you have been wanting to read for a while, flaws and all.
Profile Image for Libros Prohibidos.
868 reviews357 followers
July 20, 2015
Este es uno de esos libros que hablan de libros, de los buenos, en concreto. Cuenta con dos poderosos ingredientes: una temática ingeniosa, y una trama bien tejida que entremezcla una atípica historia de amor y una investigación policial (sí, también hay asesinatos). Muy recomendable. Reseña completa:
Profile Image for Lyndsay.
134 reviews
December 6, 2010
Though the idea that anyone can decide what is a "good" book is a difficult premise to support, I think most book lovers understand and possibly support the concept (If being discerning makes me an elitist then sign me up! I'm not hurting anyone but myself). As much fun as it is to read the latest bestseller, we know in the back of our heads that it is candy for the brain- not food for the soul. Hey, I've read Twilight just like everyone else. It didn't change my life. But it did make vacation wonderful as my brain shut down. We need that.

It was the idea that there is a bookstore where people LOVE LOVE LOVE literature and want to share it with everyone else that made the plot so appealing. Books about books are irresistible that way. A place I could go where the staff had conversations about obscure novels I would otherwise never know? I want to be there!

I believe that some of the subtleties of the characters must have been lost in translation (otherwise how can you explain Anis? Go away, your actions have no motivation). And if it wasn't a language difference, and the characters were that vague and slightly meandering on purpose, I don't think it ruins the book. The whole premise makes you think- who has the authority to dictate taste, or tell us what to buy? And if The Good Novel did open how would you react? Would you be happy, or would you resent them for excluding your tastes?
Profile Image for Christine.
6,673 reviews489 followers
November 21, 2010
Over a year ago, I went into my local Borders to buy a copy of Last Watch. The woman behind me in line had a copy as well. We turned to each other and said, "Don't you love him?".

That's what books do.

Now, my local Border's is nothing like the bookstore in this novel, though my local Borders tends to hire readers as booksellers so as long as you know something about the book, they can find it. And as much as I enjoy the Watch books, they aren't really part of the 600.

But books are important. Reading more than just popular fiction is important. Too often that is all people read, and popular fiction usually doesn't inspire much thought.

And that is what this book does.

Just read it. I really don't know what else to say. Words fail. If you read it, you will feel loss but hope. If you don't read it, all you will feel is loss.
December 9, 2010
What if you could start and own a bookstore where you allowed only wonderful novels to be sold? What if someone/s didn't like that idea and was willing to go to any means to prevent your success? Would you keep your bookstore? These are the questions presented in this book. Written engagingly, the book contains mystery, a love story, and of course many bibliophiles whose love for quality books fuels the fire.

I enjoyed the beginning where the concept of this novel bookstore takes hold and comes into being. I also enjoyed the ending where the people who wish its failure are revealed. I did, unfortunately find that the middle of the book dragged a bit. Perhaps since I am certainly not acquainted with French novelists, that that could be the reason I found this section to be tedious.

I particularly liked this quote. "We have no time for those sloppy, hurried novels of the 'Go on', I need it for July, and in September we'll give you a proper launch and sell one hundred thousand copies.... We want books that are written for those of us who doubt, who cry over the least little things, who are startled by the slightest noise. We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer's block, the author's panic that he might be lost....We want splendid books, books that immerse us in the splendor of reality and keep us there; books that prove to us that love is at work in the world next to evil, right up against it, indistinctly, and it always will be, just the way that suffering will always ravage hearts. We want books that leave nothing out: either human tragedy or everyday wonders, books that bring fresh air into our lungs. And even if there is only one such book per decade, even if there is only one Vies Minuscules every ten years, that would be enough.

In my humble opinion, that quote alone is worth reading the book.
Profile Image for Garnette.
Author 7 books20 followers
June 1, 2011
Gripped with excitement for the first half, then dismayed by change of plot direction. However, I DO see that the author had no where else to go but to increase the tension after the blissful first half. Planning, designing, gathering, publicizing, inviting readers, finally launching even a gorgeous Parisian bookstore does not a book make. Except maybe to me and other aficionadas of the independent bookstore. So plot must take its place. I suppose. Still I read on, delighting in the writing, the books, their shop's successes. Then suddenly I began to realize this book is going to break my heart, so in love was I with the premise. As much as I wanted to read it continuously, like in the old days before opening Andes Books, I had to stop, engage with my own customers, talk about their book-love, while at the same time casting my mind back on ways to protect darling, brave, wise Francesca. Alas.

Then comes one paragraph near the end, when Cosse makes the whole plot into a metaphor that made me suddenly grasp the reason for the bookstore motif and a reason for its rising tension. She, with seeming subtleness and ease, is delicately and incisively, examining the bankruptcy of conspiracy theories. Why paranoia of another, let's say, nationality, party, tribe, religion is not rational. We've had so many opportunities to consider there MUST be conspiracy plots afoot, that to read a sane and wise explanation is astonishing. And all under the guise of loving bookstores -- or not.

Brilliant book. With the side effect of reading about books. May not be five stars but that's what I got out of it, worth five stars to me. And thank you, daughter, for an apt birthday present -- considering our family history.
913 reviews408 followers
March 16, 2012
What do French novels and Seinfeld have in common?

Well, if I got your attention with that question, my first answer is a disclaimer -- I have limited exposure to both and probably shouldn't be making judgments. But I won't let that stop me from offering my second answer, which is that both seem to create a great deal of drama around a nothing premise.

Maybe "nothing premise" isn't really fair or accurate. There was a premise here. "A Novel Bookstore" is yet another addition to the books-are-awesome-and-change-lives genre. (As a little aside, I must once again reference Daniel's review where he asks why books feel this constant need to justify their existence, particularly when they're clearly preaching to the choir -- if you're choosing to spend your limited leisure time reading this book, you probably already think books are pretty awesome.)

Having said that, this is arguably one of the better examples of this genre. A wealthy heiress and off-the-beaten-path bookseller collaborate to open a bookstore which is clearly meant to shove it in the face of all those mega-bookstores out there -- instead of a large multi-story complex, this small bookstore is highly selective and only includes "good novels" -- those nominated by a secret committee of high-brow authors.

And here's the rub -- the members of the committee are top secret! Oh, if this gets out! Whatever shall we do? Well, maybe I just don't get French culture but I couldn't understand why Renee, the concierge in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, was so desperate to hide her literary interests and here too, the need for absolute secrecy wasn't at all clear to me. But it created drama, so I guess we'll just have to accept it.

What was even more dramatic was the reaction to this bookstore's initial wild success. Oh, the anger. Oh, the wrath. Again, maybe I just don't get France. Isn't it a free country? Can't anyone open whatever kind of bookstore they want to, selective, mass-market, whatever? Can't people simply vote with their feet if they don't like the bookstore? Why all this intensity?

But what starts as internet flaming eventually culminates on physical attacks on a few of the secret committee members (gasp! How did the secret ever get out?), and now there's a mystery to be solved about who engineered this. There's also a love story which was pretty unimpressive. I hate to say it, but it's kind of ironic when a novel glorifying good novels doesn't manage to be one.

Okay. I'm being a little harsh here. It kept me reading until the end, and I was in fact charmed by the fantasy of a selective bookstore stocked with only good novels (although I have to add here that in my experience, authors actually aren't always the best sources of book recommendations. I wasn't crazy about many of the book's on Stephen King's must-read list, and I also haven't been thrilled with a lot of other author's recommendations). And I think some of my distance could be attributed to the not-particularly-eloquent translation, for which I can't blame the author or the book.

So I'll give this three stars because it had its redeeming features, and probably most goodreaders would appreciate the fantasy of a store which is kind of like goodreads in real time.
814 reviews146 followers
April 21, 2011
For a very long time now I have fantasized about opening up a bookstore - not a bookopolis ala B&N, or a cozy used bookstore per se, as much as one that instead of sporting categories such as fiction, non fiction, etc, mine would have 'I really loved this and everyone must read it,' 'this is really dark but so worth reading,' 'I couldn't finish this but everyone else seems to like it' shelves. In essence it would be the living breathing physical version of my goodreads list.
I think that most people who love reading have such fantasies, because we know what it is to walk into a bookstore and need help, far more help than the formal labels of mystery and historical fiction can ever give. I want an average star rating, I want Amazon comments, I want to know what to read and what won't waste my time and money.
For this reason, A Novel Bookstore was bound to steal my heart for the premise alone- a bookstore that is built upon a desire to have only truly good reads in the bookstore.
This highly appealing concept prompts a world of issues, inevitably, as what determines a truly good book? The store at first takes Paris by storm - but soon enough people resent the elitism, the snobbery, and the insult that comes with selection. Things turn ugly as the top secret selection committee is hunted down and, person by person, stalked and attacked so as to settle the score of such prejudice.
I don't do mystery, but this was no cliched whodunnit with you guessing all the suspects and finding there to be little merit to the storyline otherwise. Rather, this is a love letter to literature, and then (raising it from three stars to four for me, more on that later) the novel transcends even this and serves as a fascinating metaphor of the general question of capitalism versus communism - is there a place for mediocre literature, is there an inherent problem in having standards, will a store like this reenergize the publishing world by encouraging people to be placed in such a store or does it insult the variety that literature offers by being an array of flavors and even quality?
The novel itself, by being translated and taking place in Paris is at times stilted and, yes, pretentious - but who can blame the book for that? Paris would not be Paris without its pretentious charm, and a book about snubbing books can be no other way as well (and as an unabashed book snob, I can only applaud its stance). Indeed, the novel, through its characters, shows the reverse snobbery that occurs as well as people grapple with have and have nots, quality and sub par and who can be the judge.
I love books about books, and I love the idea, fantastical though it may be, that such a store could exist and thrive. A business built purely on ideals, while making the story wholly unrealistic, is certainly refreshing to read about, and for anyone who feels not much good has come since the early 1900s where literature is concerned, this is certainly a validating read.
Profile Image for Sandra.
923 reviews264 followers
November 1, 2014
Facendo una valutazione complessiva del libro lo definirei un romanzo da intrattenimento da leggere sotto l’ombrellone, come ho fatto io, privo di velleità letterarie.
La trama gialla, pubblicizzata nel retro della copertina, è davvero esile, i tre quarti del libro sono costituiti dal racconto a partire dalle origini dell’apertura e dell’attività della libreria del buon romanzo, fatta a un poliziotto, dai proprietari della medesima, preoccupati per il compimento di atti intimidatori da parte di ignoti nei confronti di chi è coinvolto nell’iniziativa: tutto è poco credibile.
La lettura mi ha fatto riflettere su i diritti imprescrittibili del lettore elencati da Pennac, in particolare il diritto n.5, quello di leggere qualsiasi cosa.
Esistono buoni romanzi e cattivi romanzi? Sì. Esiste una letteratura che nasce come operazione commerciale, cavalcando l’onda degli argomenti in voga nell’attualità, ed esistono libri che “ci scuotono e ci provocano”, “libri che ci sconvolgono come la più nera delle disgrazie, come la morte di qualcuno che amiamo più di noi stessi”, usando le parole di Kafka. Come scrive Pennac, si cresce anche come lettori e la maturazione, dopo letture che potremmo chiamare promiscue, conduce a comprendere la distinzione e a dirigersi verso quella letteratura che costituisce il nutrimento dell’animo. Sempre nel rispetto del principio per cui tutte le letture sono concesse.
Tornando al libro appena letto, penso che la libreria del buon romanzo non sia altro che l'espressione in forma metaforica del processo di maturazione del lettore esposto sopra.
Profile Image for Triciareader.
46 reviews1 follower
July 21, 2011
I love Europa editions. I had to buy this book because I loved it so much - I want to go through the book and make a list of the books which they recommend and start reading them. There are two pages mid-book that I want to see as a poster ... a manifesto for good books, not merely what is popular.

"For as long as literature has existed, suffering, joy, horror, grace, and everything that is great in humankind has produced great novels. These exceptional books are often not very well-known, and are in constant danger of being forgotten, and in today's world, where the number of books being published is considerable, the power of marketing and the cynicism of business have joined forces to keep those extraordinary books indistinguishable from millions of insignificant, not to say pointless books.

But those masterful novels are live-giving. They enchant us. They help us to live. They teach us. It has become necessary to come to their defense and promote them relentlessly because it is an illusion to think that they have the power to radiate all by themselves. That alone is our ambition."

That is the heart of the book. It will not be for everyone, as the good novels they promote are not for everyone, but it is a masterful work, which should appeal to book-lovers everywhere.
Profile Image for Emily.
529 reviews50 followers
December 30, 2015
Ξεκινάει πολύ καλά.
Και συνεχίζει. Η ιδέα που δίνει πνοή στην πλοκή είναι ευρηματική.
Κάνει κάθε βιβλιόφιλο να του τρέχουν τα σάλια και να λαχταρά να γίνει μέρος της παρέας. Οι σελίδες γυρίζουν με απόλαυση και ο αναγνώστης ζηλεύει την τύχη των ηρώων.
Δυστυχώς όμως, η ιδέα αναλώνεται πολύ γρήγορα και οι αρκετές σελίδες μέχρι το τέλος καταντούν ανιαρές. Κάπου μπλέκεται και ένα απρόσφορο και άγαρμπο ειδύλλιο οπότε το τελικό αποτέλεσμα απογοητεύει. Έδωσε όμως ένα ευχάριστο και ενδιαφέρον ταξίδι, γεμάτο βιβλιοφιλική ζήλεια.
Profile Image for José.
400 reviews28 followers
November 21, 2019
Lo bueno: la crítica implícita y explícita a la "literatura" de famosillos y trepas y todo lo concerniente a la librería.

Lo malo: los personajes son aburridos.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
101 reviews1 follower
March 2, 2015
Η Laurence Cossé μάς συστήνει ανθρώπους με πάθος για τη λογοτεχνία, οι οποίοι, έχοντας βαρεθεί την έκδοση βιβλίων χωρίς ενδιαφέρον που επικρατούν με μοναδικό κριτήριο την επικαιρότητα, αποφασίζουν να δημιουργήσουν ένα εξειδικευμένο βιβλιοπωλείο, για λίγους και εκλεκτούς, ώστε να αναδείξουν παραγνωρισμένα μυθιστορήματα. Πηγαίνοντας κόντρα στη «μόλυνση του πνεύματος» και με οδηγό την ανάγκη τους να μοιραστούν την απόλαυση της ανάγνωσης, ξεκινούν να πραγματοποιήσουν αυτό το ριζοσπαστικό όνειρο, που ουσιαστικά αποτελεί επανάσταση στα πολιτιστικά ήθη της εποχής μας μιας και η όλη ιδέα είναι αντίθετη με τη σύγχρονη πρακτική της βιομηχανίας του βιβλίου.

Η πρώτη μου σκέψη, μετά τον αρχικό ενθουσιασμό, ήταν φυσικά πως όλη η ιστορία βασίζεται στο κυνήγι μιας ουτοπίας και αποπνέει έναν κάποιο ελιτισμό. «Και ποιος είναι δηλαδή αυτός ο Βαν ή η Φραντσέσκα που θα μας πει τι είναι άξιο να διαβαστεί και τι όχι; Εγώ θα διαβάζω ό,τι μου αρέσει και όχι ό,τι πρέπει», θα σκεφτόταν κανείς. Ίσως αρχικά παρερμηνεύσουμε τις προθέσεις των βασικών ηρώων θεωρώντας τους σνομπ, όμως ουσιαστικά πρόκειται περί ανθρώπων που αγωνίζονται για τη διατήρηση και τη συντήρηση της λογοτεχνικής μας κληρονομιάς. Βασισμένη σε αυτή την κεντρική ιδέα, η Cossé καταφέρνει να αποτυπώσει την ισχύουσα κατάσταση στο χώρο της έκδοσης και εμπορίας βιβλίου παγκοσμίως σήμερα ενώ παράλληλα θίγει το θέμα της λογοτεχνικής αξίας, στηλιτεύει τις κριτικές επιτροπές των λογοτεχνικών βραβείων και εξαίρει το ρόλο και τη δύναμη του τύπου, του ίντερνετ και της διαφήμισης στη διαμόρφωση της λαϊκής κουλτούρας και στη χειραγώγηση του κοινού.

Παρά το βιβλιοφιλικό υπόβαθρο και την ευφυή σύλληψη που αρχικά με ενθουσίασαν, όσο προχωρούσε η ανάγνωση οφείλω να ομολογήσω πως κάπου κουράστηκα και προς το τέλος απογοητεύτηκα λιγάκι. Ενώ η ιστορία ξεκινά με το θέμα της λογοτεχνικής αξίας να τίθεται υπό μορφή κοινωνικού προβληματισμού, στη συνέχεια η ιδέα ξεχειλώνει –προφανώς για να ενταθεί η αγωνία–, εστιάζουμε στο μυστήριο ποιος κ��ύβεται πίσω από τις επιθέσεις κατά του βιβλιοπωλείου, ενώ υπάρχει και μια παράταιρη, γλυκερή και κάπως μελοδραματική παρέκβαση, όπου το νόημα χάνεται τελείως.

Αυτό όμως που πρέπει να κρατήσουμε ως απόσταγμα είναι νομίζω η ουσιαστική διαφορά μεταξύ ψυχαγωγίας και διασκέδασης. Το σύγχρονο μάρκετινγκ στοχεύει στη σύγχυση των καταναλωτών και ευνοεί τους εκδότες της αρπαχτής, αυτούς που δεν αντιμετωπίζουν το βιβλίο ως πνευματικό αγαθό αλλά ως προϊόν που θα τους αποφέρει κέρδος. Άλλωστε είναι γνωστό πως, καλώς ή κακώς, δεν είναι η ποιότητα που φέρνει κέρδος αλλά η σαβούρα. Η Laurence Cossé όμως μιλά για βιβλία που στοιχίζουν πολύ στο συγγραφέα τους, που βυθίζονται στην ομορφιά του πραγματικού και μας κρατούν εκεί, που δεν παραγνωρίζουν τίποτα από την ανθρώπινη τραγωδία και από τα καθημερινά θαύματα, για βιβλία γραμμένα για μας, τους υπέρμαχους της λογοτεχνίας, για μας που αμφισβητούμε τα πάντα, που κλαίμε με το τίποτε, για μας που μας αρκεί ένα βιβλίο για να γεμίσουν πάλι τα πνευμόνια μας με αέρα. Και, αν μη τι άλλο, το "Au Bon Roman" δίνει πολλές ιδέες για καλά αναγνώσματα.
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216 reviews72 followers
December 18, 2010
It took me some time to make up my mind about this book. The reason for this is that it triggered two different reactions in me. I couldn’t decide how to feel about the concept of the bookstore portrayed in the story. On the one hand this is a story about the love for reading and literature and I certainly felt a connection to the characters. I also couldn’t help but think: “What a bunch of snobs!” Even though my overall feeling while reading was a rather warm and fuzzy one, this sentence went through my mind from time to time. 99% of the books mentioned by Francesca and Ivan in their discussions about which books to get for their shop are unknown to me, which made me question my knowledge of literature and my reading habits. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it made me feel looked down upon and a bit patronized. Is it wrong to sometimes want to read something trashy? I don’t think so. And who determines what a “good novel” is, what is worth reading? In a way Ivan and Francesca’s project is a bit arrogant and a lot of the bookstore’s enemies in the course of the novel respond in a way similar to what I just stated. While reading I even sometimes thought that they were not all wrong in their protest.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful book (I gave 4 stars, didn’t I?). The love for literature is portrayed beautifully, I felt inspired to open my very own bookstore and had the wish to talk to Ivan and Francesca about books and life and everything. But then again, would they want to talk to me? Here comes the ambiguity again. I can’t make up my mind about the concept of literature promoted in this book. Maybe this feeling of snobbery and elitism is only due to the fact that it’s a French novel and therefore mostly deals with French literature, which I know next to nothing about. Maybe I would have felt differently about it if it had dealt with German or British literature.

The concept of literature promoted in this book is definitely debatable. What I am certain about is that this is a beautiful novel about the love of reading, which I liked very much.
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