Review: The Bookshop Strikes Back by Ann Patchett
January 25, 2014
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ISBN 978 1 4088 4749 7
This is a work of non-fiction, but reads like a short story. The author is the protagonist. She is a novelist who lives in Nashville. The inciting incident is the closing-down of the last bookshop in the city. The antagonists are the unpredictability of the retail book market, and the main character’s own self-doubt.
This is not life-writing, in my opinion. It reads more like an adventure story. The best life-writing is about characters rather than events. This story is about events rather than characters.
It contains what appears to me to be a couple of technical inconsistencies in the tense of the narrative. It starts in the present, moves into the past, and here and then moves back into the present again. Unless you are a creative writing technical nit-picker like me, you will not notice this, nor the occasional switch from direct to indirect speech. It also contains some direct addresses to the reader.
You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead – to which I say, Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.
And so, I suppose you could call it a narrative “from the inside”, like ‘Moby Dick’.
This is a quirky story, a story of struggle against seemingly impossible odds. As I was reading it, I found it difficult to decide whether I liked it or not. As I considered this question, I finished the last page.
Ann Patchett has also written novels, including ‘Run’, and ‘Bel Canto’. The latter won the Orange Prize for fiction in 2002.