The Bookshop

The Bookshop


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Short-listed for the Booker Prize
“A beautiful book, a perfect little gem.” — BBC Kaleidoscope
“A marvelously piercing fiction.” —
Times Literary Supplement

In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop — the only bookshop — in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town's less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors’ lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence’s warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn’t always a town that wants one.

This new edition features an introduction by David Nicholls, author of One Day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594901846
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 61,404
Product dimensions: 7.80(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

PENELOPE FITZGERALD (1916–2000) was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. She won the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction for The Blue Flower, the Booker Prize for Offshore, and three of her novels — The Bookshop,The Gate of Angels, and The Beginning of Spring — were short-listed for the Booker Prize.

Date of Birth:

December 17, 1916

Date of Death:

May 3, 2000

Place of Birth:

Lincoln, England

Place of Death:

London, England


Somerville College, Oxford University, 1939

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Bookshop 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this little book in tandem with a few other women. We have yet to discuss it, but I expect all will agree that the writing is lovely. So many aspects of small town life are amusingly unveiled by this author. I especially enjoyed the character of the 10-year-old shop assistant, who smacks a customer with a ruler when they are rummaging in the 'Holds' shelf. The ending, however was grim and disapointing to me. I was expecting a charming and witty conclusion consistent with the tenor of the preceding story. What the reader is left with is a morality tale with a bad aftertaste.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Many have commented on how brief this work is. There is no arguing the point, as ¿The Bookshop¿ is brief as defined by the pages it occupies. Ms. Fitzgerald also writes concisely, however she conveys as much or more than many who would take two or three times the length of this work to tell the same story. The result would be no better; nothing more would have been related, and the reader would have just consumed more time. The events in the story come to the reader as they affect the central character. We are not privy to every conversation between other characters, nor do we witness their every thought, their every action. Just as we do day to day, we receive and react to information and events, as we are made aware of them. We share the fears, the suspicions, and the insight Florence has, but that is where it ends. We are not taken away from her to hear the plans set in motion by others; we have little advantage over her in terms of information that we alone possess. I think the book is brilliant because it tells a story the way any of us would have experienced the events if they had happened to us. Ms. Fitzgerald cuts away anything that is remotely extraneous, but what she leaves is beautifully compact and true to life. I have just started her work ¿The Blue Flower¿ which is massive in comparison, should be interesting.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Anonymous 9 months ago
Worth the read just to enjoy the writing. Humorous tidbits that you will almost miss until a double-take makes you re-read that sentence and you laugh out loud. The only negative comment is that I would have ended it differently.
TheBibliovert More than 1 year ago
Fast Read, Frustrating, Heartbreaking The Bookshop is a well-written story.  The main character, Florence Green, is a strong-willed lady with the idea of opening a bookshop, in Hardborough, in 1959.  She faces many obstacles and injustices along the way.  However, If you are looking for a happy ending to this story, you have the wrong book. Overall, The Bookshop, is a sad book, beginning, middle, and end. There is no happiness to be found in this book which made it a bit difficult to digest. "Surely you have to succeed, if you give everything you have."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A quick but thoroughly enjoyable book. The nuanced character dissections were a thrill. I laughed aloud, shared frustrations, had pangs and eye-opening wonders at this astutely observed little community.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another charmer by Penelope Fitzgerald! The courageous Florence Green attempts to open a bookshop even though the local odds are against her. Or should I say that the odd lcoals are against her?! The shop supporters battle valiantly against the social matriarch of the small have to love the local vet, Raven, the 10 year old knuckle rapping Christine, and the recluse who comes out to battle to the death for the bookshop, Mr. Brundish. This is a novella perfect for a long afternoon read in your favorite chair!
amandajoy30 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was ok. The story was nice and the characters were interesting. It was a very sweet and innocent read.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1959, Florence Green opens a bookshop in the seaside town of Hardborough, a quintessential small village in which everyone knows everyone else¿s business¿and many people are resistant to change. Flying in the face of opposition, Florence opens her shop, which is popular at first¿and then various interfering busybodies in Hardborough try to shut her down.I thought that Florence as a character was a little bit flat and she tends to take back seat to some of the more interesting characters such as Christine, Florence¿s assistant, or even the small-minded Violet Gamart. Florence doesn¿t seem to be much of a reader; for example, when she reads the reviews that Lolita has gotten, she asks Milo to read it instead of reading it herself. She doesn¿t even seem to care too much when the townspeople try to shut the bookshop down. As an avid book reader, I obviously see how the possible closing of the bookshop is tragic, but since Florence doesn¿t care all that much about her fate and that of the bookshop, why should the reader? As a result, the emotional impact of the ending of the book wasn¿t as great for me as it could have been.However, the narrative flow of the book is good, and you as the reader find yourself wishing that the bookshop will succeed. Speaking from the bibliophilic point of view, the tone of this short novel is sad; how can so many people be so small-minded about something so innocuous as a bookshop? The people in Hardborough are certainly resistant to change. Aside from my major problems with the main character, I really did enjoy this book about books. There¿s even a poltergeist to keep things interesting.
jklavanian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading Offshore, had to read more of Penelope Fitzgerals's book. The Bookshop is equally good. But I'm beginning to wonder if there is ever an upbeat ending. I'll have to keep reading, because her writing is so beautiful.
EnriqueFreeque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
NEWS ALERT: Indie bookshops are closing left and right at alarmingly rapid rates everywhere; in both big cities like Chicago and English villages like Hardborough, the latter the quaint setting for Penelope Fitzgerald's, Man Booker shortlisted, second novel, The Bookshop; they're being shut down, the bookshops, as if they were sweatshops run by misers, seemingly every time you scan the morning headlines in Shelf Awarenes.Old news, bookstore closures? It wasn't old news in 1978, when Penelope Fitzgerald published The Bookshop, perhaps adding prescience to the poignancy already in glowing abundance in these bittersweet, but ravenously delectable pages about a courageous, recent widow's dream to do something (and to be somebody) different: Independent for the first time in her life: A bookseller. Brave woman.Florence Green (a pity her last name is so descriptively apt concerning her business acumen), itching for adventure and a means of making her own way in the world for the first time since her husband's death, takes a huge, optimistic gamble, and opens her bookshop in a long-vacated, leaking, draughty and dilapidated, antiquated structure befitting its name - "The Old House" - in an English village with an ominous name of its own: Hardborough. Indeed it's hard starting up any business anywhere, but a bookshop in an establishment as rickety and sodden as the Old House? Can you imagine? Isn't dampness and draught anathema to pulp? Water-stained books are not fast sellers.And isn't location everything too for a bookshop? Florence Green has chosen a site in an everybody-knows-everybody hamlet that has one unpaved road in, and just that same frequently flooded and muddied (when the high-tide rolls in) road out. Might be easy to open a bait-and-tackle shop at such a site, but a bookshop?And did I mention that the Old House is haunted by what the locals term a "rapper"? An entity that, no, does not wear a baseball cap sideways nor work double turntables simultaneously, but whom makes a lot of racket nonetheless. And knocks over books and sticker displays. The ghostly nuisance of such a benign poltergeist!Despite the odds stacked against Florence; and despite Violet Gamart and her uppity political power dead-set against the bookshop, for awhile, with the aid of an eleven year old girl, Christine Gipping, as well a part-time bookkeeper, and the most honorable auspices of the veritable heart and soul of Hardborough itself, Mr. Brundish, Florence Green is able to make a good go with her bookshop, and for a year, she's relatively, surprisingly, successful. Even her lending library is a smash.But not everyone is so thrilled with her success. Surrounding business's are jealous. Violet Gamart, (the Ice-Queen of Hardborough) isn't happy, either, her fairy-tale visions of the Old House becoming an "Arts Centre" for the town thwarted by this naive entrepreneur, Florence Green.Florence Green would've been wiser not to give Christine Gipping, her eleven-year-old, impulsive part-timer, so much authority in the lending library, turns out, especially on the occasion of Violet Gamart's very first visit to the store. Precocious Christine, strictly abiding by the checkout lending rules, "intervenes" rather rudely (but within her rights!) as Violet Gamart attempts to procure for herself a volume out of turn. There's a waiting list, Lady, abide by it! A swift ruler-thwack to Violet's knuckles and...The Old House Bookshop, unfortunately, inevitably is doomed. Sorry to not warn of spoilers, but the book (a novella really) lets you know soon that there won't be a happy ending.Penelope Fitzgerald's style is concise and fast paced, but full like a hearty homecooked meal leaves you full. The book is small, though, diminuitive, a diamond: perfect in equilateral literary geometric dimensions that only enhance its shiniest story sparkle. The Bookshop, in 123 pages, sparkles like that perfe
apartmentcarpet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very slow read. It's almost as though instead of a plot, the author is working at creating a mood, and in that regard, she succeeds. The entire story has a feeling of unease, but I kept waiting for more excitement.
mphchicago on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A nasty little village populated by mean and annoying characters. I didn't even like the supposedly "kindly" woman whose dream it was to open the bookshop. She had no love of books whatsoever. The story seemed choppy and not quite fleshed out but I don't think I could have taken anymore along the same lines.
TheTwoDs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Penelope Fitzgerald¿s concise look at a small, backwater English village¿s reception of a new bookstore brims with detailed examinations of 1950¿s life in this locale. Think of the character types of Thornton Wilder¿s Our Town transposed from New England to Old. Our protagonist, recently widowed, decides to open a bookstore in a dilapidated old building located in a hardscrabble seaside village that the 20th century seems to have passed by. She is thwarted at every turn by various people, including the relatively wealthy and powerful local ¿arts scene¿ doyenne, a poltergeist, and a shortage of passionate readers. The small-town political machinations are vividly depicted, including battles over censorship and child labor. All in all, an invigorating read, apt for these times in which independent bookstores are closing left and right.
wandering_star on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1959, a middle aged woman opens a bookshop in an East Anglian village - unwittingly crossing the village's self-styled doyenne of the arts in the process. The story unfolds from there, first as a genteel comedy of manners, and later with a darker, sadder twist. Early on, the narrator suggests that Florence (the shop owner) is naive not to think that people are "divided into exterminators and exterminatees, with the former, at any given moment, predominating". The word 'exterminator' seems overstated at the time, but becomes apter. The book is wittily written and I enjoyed reading it. I did feel that the ending all came about rather suddenly, and unexpectedly different in tone from what had gone before - but then, this is the same way that it was experienced by Florence, so I suppose we are experiencing that along with her. But for me, it didn't really live up to the rave reviews - it was a bit too light.
tjblue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is listed as YA, but it doesn't read like a YA story. It's a short, quick read set in Hardborough, England in 1959. It's about a middle-aged widow and the difficulties she has in opening and running a bookstore.
Voracious_Reader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure that I liked The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald. The story feels like it's over before it has begun. The characters are considerately crafted, but what a downer. She artfully recreates the backbiting and constant gossip of a small town where the inhabitants attempt to keep things the same or control all things at all costs. How dare anyone attempt to elevate themselves without their permission? It was very well-written, but I can't say it was enjoyable to read about people behaving horribly.
Wildegenes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a mere 123 pages Penolope Fitzgerald introduces us to a cast of at least a dozen characters populating a village in Britain's East Anglia. A few deft sentences and we get the look and style of each one. She does this by first evoking a distinct sense of place. It is easy to read this book in a couple of hours. Charmed by the eccentricities of the villagers and the humble courage of Florence Green the reader is lulled into believing all will be well. The betrayals therefore are all the more devastating. This is not a book to read when you are feeling low.
Lman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With very few words this book sure says a lot! The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald offers, within a slim framework, a tiny glimpse into a fragment of a local community chock-full of small-minded people, and creates a huge impression!When the widow Florence Green - who, in truth, has been existing, rather than living, for the last eight years in the coastal village of Hardborough, East Anglia - decides to open a bookshop in this isolated area, reactions are mixed. In order to succeed at this unusual venture Florence has to overcome a series of obstacles: human, inanimate and preternatural; but chiefly those placed in her path by the district authorities, from her bank manager and her solicitor, to the county society doyenne, Violet Gamart. In what is essentially a concise, but elegantly-detailed construction of Florence's experiences, as she organises the purchase, renovation, opening and daily running of her bookshop, the minutia of life in this damp and dying community also unfolds.This book is probably best described as a sad little tale accentuating, with clever understatement and adroit particulars, the foibles of life in a diminished seaside village ¿ and the endeavours of some of the petty inhabitants to increase, at the expense of others, their inconsequential significance. The genius in the text is the meticulous description of the desultory specifics of local life, thus providing a depth of analysis, intimated delicately between the lines, for the reader to ponder. There is so much more to this tale in what is left unsaid than in what is written. And what is written is just delightful: when Florence sets up in the 'Old House' - named for the fact that it is one of the oldest structures in this already ancient area - the shop is, of course, named "The Old House Bookshop" - how not!This is my first Penelope Fitzgerald ¿ and it won¿t be my last. There is an economy of style and degree of skill, in her writing, to depict a mood, an atmosphere, an ambience, that is all the more striking with the brevity of the work. There is nothing uncommon in this small-town situation the author portrays: the fear of the unusual with an intense phobia surrounding any change, any disruption to the status quo. The author has, however, with exceptional ability, created precisely, and concisely, an absorbing tale in regards to such, which is also, on the whole, quite touching.
pokarekareana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked the characters, and the sense of place was good. The plot was a bit slow in places, and I felt a bit disappointed with the ending; I think I would have liked more resistance to the unpleasant behaviour of some of the characters from the protagonist and those around her. It could have been more dramatic, but definitely a great effort from somebody who came to writing late in life.
readingwithtea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: Florence Green, whom life seems to have passed by, dares to open a bookshop in The Old House in a seaside village in East Anglia. She takes on the polite but ruthless local opposition, the disintegrating old house and the supernatural in her endeavour. However, 1959 is not a kind year to widows opening small businesses.First off, the writing is beautiful. Fitzgerald cultivates a small but clever cast of personalities, with a gentle gradation of character development. To quote the TLS from the back cover: "Fitzgerald's resources of odd people are impressively rich". At 153 pages, this is definitely one of the shortest books I have read since I graduated from the Famous Five and Secret Seven. However, I'm not sure that added length would add anything to the novel, as we focus only on Florence's time in the village. In a larger work covering all of Florence's life, her time in the village would probably occupy this many pages, so in a sense it's not small at all, just precisely focussed.There's not much of a plot but that is a pleasant change for me, given that I usually read very plot-driven novels (e.g. Clive Cussler). We pass ten years in Florence's company (almost exclusively), in a succession of episodes and moments which introduce us to some strange people with peculiar motivations. Some of them threaten to descend to farce (particularly the old man who keels over dead in the market square), but poor Florence remains fixed solidly in realism throughout.One character who is exquisitely captured is young Christine. The ten-year-old bookshop assistant is proud and proper but smacks a customer over the hand with a ruler. She confides in Florence and listens to her, but runs off in a huff when her schooling takes an unfortunate twist. Like Marcus in About A Boy and Alan Bradley's spectacular efforts with Flavia, Christine is a beautiful child who springs off the page into the reader's heart.The villagers are an odd mob and are strangely set against Florence - whether this is due to the interference of the village's most prominent member of society is not quite clear, which adds to the charm; the reader cannot be sure of the minor characters' motivations. I'm still confused by Milo North. The poltergeist embodies the village spirit, in that he is loudest and most disruptive when Florence is successful. I was apprehensive about the introduction of the poltergeist, but it was neatly done. Fitzgerald has a gentle touch with irony, and it lightens the sombre mood regularly.I had some questions which were not answered (the circumstances of her being widowed, what her connection to the village is or why she moved there), and they are not answered precisely because the focus is only on her time in the village. However, the answers aren't important.Favourite quotes: "She had a kind heart, though that is not of much use when it comes to the matter of self-preservation." "She had been trusted, and that was not an everyday experience in Hardborough" "Her disappointment, however, endeared her to the shopkeepers of Hardborough. They had all known better, and could have told her so." "Gentleness is not kindness. His fluid personality tested and stole into the weak places of other until it found it could settle down to its own advantage" "Lord Gosfield was touched, though he had said nothing all evening, and had in fact driven the hundred odd miles expressly to say nothing in the company of his old friend Bruno"I would definitely be interested in reading more FitzGerald after this, and I hope someone decides to make a film out of this - I can just see Jennifer Ehle, Helen Blaxendale or even Helena Bonham-Carter bustling about a little bookshop with the grey East Anglian sea in the background...Reviews from other bloggers: dovegreyreader, Savidge Reads, Novel Insights, Sasha and the Silverfish, The Mookse and the Gripes
FrancescaFB More than 1 year ago
sandpiper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up a while back because (a) the author had been recommended to me, and (b) I'd won another of her books in a ferret-naming competition, so I was keeping an eye out for what else she'd written. I was attracted by the cover, and I love bookshops, so it was an easy decision to buy.Last night, I was struggling with a non-fiction book, and just wanted some fiction which was easy to get into. I chose this one, largely because it was a short book, so I thought we would be straight into the plot. And we were. Before I reached the bottom of the first page, the main character was starting to form in my mind. By the end of the second page, the groundwork was laid for the plot. A masterful beginning.I'm afraid I rather raced through the book, as I was eager to learn how the story progressed. Being set in 1959, there was a distinct class divide in the town, but with hints of the way this was beginning to change in British society. But at its base is a stonking good story, with some characters you are rooting for, some you are booing from the sidelines, and some you can't quite make out, with a good dollop of gentle humour. Recommended.
knittingfreak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book by Fitzgerald that I've read. It's a fun novella that is full of small town charm and wit. Florence Green, a widow, decides to open a bookshop in the Old House in the tiny coastal town of Hardborough. Much to her surprise, she soon discovers that not everyone in this tiny little community is excited about her new venture. It seems that even though the Old House has been sitting empty for ages, once Florence decides to purchase it for her bookshop, others suddenly have ideas for the place themselves. It's not only some of the townsfolk that she must contend with, but she also must contend with the rapper who occupies the Old House, as well. Before you get the wrong idea, the rapper in this case is a poltergeist that isn't too thrilled to have someone living in the house again. But, Florence doesn't let the people or the poltergeist stop her from realizing her dream. After much negotiation with the bank manager, Florence gets the loan and begins the task of turning the Old House into a proper bookshop.The book is full of interesting characters (besides the rapper) such as Christine, the 10-year old girl who becomes Florence's assistant in the store. Like all of the children in Hardborough, Christine is used to hard work and seems older than her years. Mrs. Gamart is the self-appointed matron of Hardborough along with her husband the General. While most of the townsfolk simply think Florence's shop will fail, Mrs. Gamart is openly against the idea. For she has decided that Hardborough requires an arts center, and the Old House is the perfect place for it. Never mind the fact that it has sat empty for years. There's really only a couple people who actually support Florence in her endeavor, one being an eccentric recluse whom she only meets in person once. This is a fun book with great descriptions of small town life in a coastal village and a cast of very colorful characters. I will definitely be seeking out more books by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Zmrzlina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very often I was reminded of The Remains of the Day while reading this book. There is the same melancholy acceptance of the way things are, though the way may not be fair. But in The Bookshop, Florence Green, the protagonist, does try to change the way things are. The story doesn't relay on Florence Green's success or failure though. It relies on the reader's ability to hold the hope that just because something has always been one way doesn't mean it has to always be one way.