Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘The Last Bookshop’

The Last Bookshop by Emma Young

The Last Bookshop is Australian author Emma Young’s first novel.

The Last Bookshop is a contemporary story set in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia.

Cait is the main character. She owns the last bookshop in Perth’s most fashionable shopping area and is slowly going broke. When Cait’s leasing agency put the rent up in an attempt to squeeze Book Fiend out of its rented premises so that a high-end fashion house could move in, Cait’s loyal customers rallied around her to try to save the shop.

Cait had recently started a relationship with one of her customers, James, who she met when he was shopping in Book Fiend for self-help relationship books*. James worked for the leasing agency who managed Cait’s tenancy and being much better off financially than she was, regularly shouted her expensive meals and wine, even though Cait was conscious of the imbalance of their relationship. James was lovely in general, but lacking in substance. When Cait’s dearest friend became terminally ill he wasn’t able to provide her with the emotional support she needed and later he became jealous and angry with Cait while she was working long hours to keep her business going. Perhaps not surprisingly, James eventually disappeared completely when she needed him most.

I enjoyed reading about Cait’s relationships with her customers, who were people of all ages, wealth statuses with varied reading interests. I also enjoyed the constant references within the story to real books, many of which were funny, such as a customer requesting a book by Al Chemist when she meant The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho or someone else asking for a book called ‘Falling Pine Trees’ instead of David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars.

I also liked the conversations Cait and her dearest friend had about C.S. Lewis and his lover, Mrs Moore as they read his diary, All My Road Before Me. I sniffed at customers who complained to Cait that they could buy books cheaper from Amazon than from her shop and I smiled when I recognised books Cait recommended to her customers. The recommendations included Jane Harper’s The Dry or Stephen King’s The Shining, depending on the customer’s reading tastes.

I also added a book to my own list after learning of it for the first time while reading this story. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is the story of an Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escaped jail and went to India, which has apparently inspired a generation of people to quit their day jobs and go off back-packing. I don’t know why I’ve never heard of Shantaram, but according to Cait second-hand copies of the book walked off the shelves at Book Fiend.

The Last Bookshop was perhaps slightly too long and Cait’s ruminations were slightly repetitive, but otherwise I enjoyed the story and would be happy to read Emma Young’s next book.

*Many years ago I worked in a shop alongside a woman who had married a customer of the shop. I was amused at the time when she said how well you could get to know a person based on small, daily interactions and by looking at what they purchased. So far as I know their marriage is still going strong!

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