I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, ever since it was in the New Books section at Bongs & Noodles and I almost but didn’t quite buy it. It’s all about an Australian girl whose mother dies, and she comes to work in a bookshop in New York that is a very good and famous bookshop and contains many strange people who are albinos and trannies and emotionally unavailable snobs. They are a motley crew. I had high hopes.
All dashed, unfortunately. It’s not the worst book ever, but I could hardly be bothered finishing it. I only finished it at all because I had some vague stubborn feeling that my judging-a-book-by-its-title-and-cover instincts were not as catastrophically wrong as all that. I think that these literary suspensey books are very difficult to pull off. Thinking of some that I’ve read – I found Possession quite gripping as I recall, but I’ve never had any desire to read it again though now that I bring it up I might check it out; The Archivist wasn’t bad, and I liked it when he said existence is infinitely cross-referenced; I liked Arturo Perez-Reverte (and he knew about Rafael Sabatini!) but I got too fed up with the translation to carry on – so, yes, I think that kind of book is just tricky to write. Maybe not the best genre to write your very first novel in.
I thought the characters – who should have carried the book, the way it was written – were much less interesting than they should have been. They never really rounded out and became people, and I found the heroine frustrating. Which, actually, upon reflection, is because she never really rounded out either. I couldn’t ever predict what she was going to do, which wasn’t because she was unpredictable the way that people are unpredictable, but because she was such a cipher. And they were all like that really, like Sheridan Hay wrote “Oscar – snobby asexual guy” and “Walter – weird albino” and then didn’t bother taking it any further.
Life is like this. I’m quite liking Anna’s Book, which I didn’t expect to care about at all, and The Secret of Lost Things, which I expected to love, doesn’t even rate an “Enjoyed” tag.