It’s that time again; another review for this year’s Buzzwordathon! July’s theme is ‘Bookish Words’. Since the word ‘bookshop’ was an obvious choice, I selected The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. At the beginning of my copy of the book, Jenny includes a message to the readers. This message explains the different places a book can be read, sharing tips to help the reader have a good reading experience. Jenny’s message was a nice gesture to her audience, as it felt genuine. In this message, Jenny shares how she purposefully gave her characters different names, in an attempt to avoid confusion. As a reader, I appreciated this creative decision because it was easier to remember who was who. But another creative decision I liked was how Jenny gave each character a distinct personality and characteristics. With a mostly strong use of character development, this allowed the characters to be unique and memorable from one another. The use of descriptive imagery toward settings and scenery was one of the strongest components of The Bookshop on the Corner! Through select word choices, Jenny paints a distinguishable landscape between the city (Birmingham, England) and the country (Kirrinfief, Scotland) that feels realistic. One example is when Jenny describes sunshine in the countryside. She refers to this natural element as “golden”. She also writes about the sunlight’s effect on other pieces of nature, such as how it is “illuminating every crystal raindrop”. Literary details like these help elaborate the story’s surroundings.
There’s nothing wrong with incorporating romance into a story. In fact, some of my favorite Hallmark films feature at least one romance. But what makes or breaks that romance is the execution of its dynamic. Many types of romances can be found in literature, from stories about “enemies to lovers” to a tale revolving around “college sweethearts”. When an author chooses one of these dynamics early on in their writing process and consistently utilizes that dynamic, that story may have the potential to be a well-told narrative. Unfortunately, this is not what happened in The Bookshop on the Corner. While reading Jenny’s book, it seems like she couldn’t decide which romance dynamic she wanted to adopt. Instead of choosing one and sticking with it, Jenny picked four of them. Because of their inconsistent presence and lack of confidence, none of these dynamics worked. In fact, the fourth romance dynamic (which is found toward the end of the book) was so unexpected, it felt like I was reading a completely different book.
The inconsistent execution of the romance dynamics is just one flaw in The Bookshop on the Corner. The titular bookshop (which was not a brick-and-mortar store or on the corner, as the cover and title suggest) is more of an afterthought. That’s because the majority of the story is a “slice of life” tale chronicling the protagonist’s adjustment to her surroundings. Nina’s, the protagonist’s, literary matchmaking is really moments of convenient coincidence just to push the story forward, instead of problem-solving skills Nina acquired over time. The more I read The Bookshop on the Corner, I more I found myself disliking Nina. What started as an admirable and somewhat relatable protagonist evolved into a selfish and narrow-minded person. When I first read the synopsis for this book, it sounded like a typical Hallmark Channel “rom-com”. But now that I read The Bookshop on the Corner, it is nothing like those productions. If you enjoy Hallmark movies, books about books, or Scottish stories, please seek elsewhere. You aren’t missing anything by not reading this story.
Overall score: 1.7 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: As I mentioned in my review, The Bookshop on the Corner is not like a typical Hallmark Channel “rom-com”. The content that prevents it from being like that aforementioned type of story is the following:
- Several chapters discuss a male and female character having sex
- Some swearing can be found throughout the story
- One chapter chronicles a lamb giving birth. A lamb being injured is also mentioned.
- At one point in the story, Nina talks to her friend about a character from a picture book being presented unfavorably. That friend calls Nina out for sounding “weird”.
- A Latvian man is described as “exotic”
- Nina’s friend, Surinder, says, on more than one occasion, Nina has “gone native” after she moved to the country.
- A teenage character is described as being “puppy fat”
- A character with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) is briefly discussed