A Novel Bookstore–Laurence Cossé

Why do good books always have to end badly?

Cossé creates a great premise:  a bookstore that only carries good books, that bucks publishing trends, and that operates collectively through a secret committee to select titles.  At the root of this bookstore a dynamic duo, a man with bookseller experience and a woman with a love of literature, tons of cash, and deep sadness that the bookstore might fill.  Enter third party beautiful, young, damaged sociology student to disrupt the picture.

The idea that people love books and that they want to read good books is a fantasy most readers enjoy.  Of course, readers picture themselves as reading good books, not the trashy, empty-headed readers the Good Book avoids.  I mean, we all read some of the trashy stuff once in awhile, but………

If you’re French this book was probably even more fun as you would recognize all of the authors.  I’m more of a trashy reader, so I did not.

Cossé tells a love story, a mystery, and makes social commentary while making the launching of a bookstore seem like wildly engaging stuff.  She’s tremendous.

Here’s what was so awful.  Francesca (yes, Dante reference) is a plot device so calculated that I raged at her fate.  She is a mysterious heiress with the unhappy marriage and a suicide daughter who swoops in and makes the Good Book possible.  Don’t we all need one?  She’s also the woman who connects on a deep level with Ivan, the itinerant bookseller, and who lets him go to love another woman.  He is the man too dumb to get it.  Yes, like Francesca, she is forced to see her love(s), but never be fulfilled.  And it drives her mad.  Until she “takes her leave.”

Cossé is a woman.  What is this about?  Why the tragic middle-aged woman for whom there is no redemption?  Was this the only way to extricate herself from the plot?

Like The Corner of the Veil, Cossé presents us with a hopeful image of our culture that is then returned to status quo.  Rather like reading a book and then closing the cover.

Finished 8/27/12


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