Title: The Bookshop
Author: Penelope Fitzgerald
''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.''
Florence Green is a middle-aged woman, who with the little inherited money that she has, wants to open up a bookshop in the town of Hardborough. She chooses a quaint, cozy corner of the town with the 'Old House' that is believed to be haunted. Establishing a fully-running bookshop amongst a town of people who question the need to read and find no necessity for a bookshop, Florence is forced to come up with ways to promote reading along with selling books. Her business blooms for a small time, and right when everything seems to be falling in place for Florence, she finds herself face to face in battle with the town's most elite and powerful doyenne of art, Mrs. Gamart, who wants to acquire the 'Old House' to set up an art centre.
"Art, culture, literature seem to improve no one in Hardborough. The most ‘cultured’, ‘artistic’ people in this community are also the most monstrous. For the malign Mrs. Gamart, an interest in ‘Culture’ brings social status and the illusion of sophistication. She will happily abandon compassion and decency to establish her precious arts centre, vital if the town is to compete socially with high-and-mighty Aldeburgh."
The Bookshop captures the fight, against ignorance and prejudice, using the base of morality, and captures the strong, brave, kind-hearted and wholesome Florence fighting till her last might to keep the bookshop against a wave of targeted actions by the power-greedy Mrs. Gamart. But, she loses the battle. As Fitzgerald puts it: 'she did not know that morality is seldom a safe guide for human conduct'.
The Bookshop is a classic story of strength, endurance, and the determination we all need to exhibit, but is encased in the truth of how the powerful can still walk over us. Florence Green is a wonderfully chiseled character who is kind and firm, determined yet powerless, and someone who never, ever gives up. Not even when the book ends with her eviction from the Old House.
I really liked the book- it's a modern classic!