If you're reading this, chances are, you probably like books. You probably would go as far to say you LOVE books, that if you chance upon a bookshop on your travels that you just HAVE to pop in for a browse and end up losing the rest of your day in there. This love for bookshops and love for reading is encapsulated perfectly in Sylvia Bishop's The Bookshop Girl, her follow up to Erica's Elephant.
Perkily illustrated by my bookselling chum Ashley King, The Bookshop Girl follows the adventures of Property Jones, who lives in a second hand bookshop after she was left there in a cupboard when she was a baby, who wins the opportunity of a lifetime to look after the renowned Montgomery Book Emporium. But can Property save the day when a sinister Mr Pink shows up demanding a rare and valuable manuscript? And will she ever reveal her biggest secret?
One of the biggest perks of Bishop's writing is how charming and breezy it is. The story reminded me of Dahl's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', especially with the Wonka-esque character of Montgomery, but Bishop holds her own and tells a fresh story rich with originality and thought. Her prose flows in such a opulent way that is illuminating and hilarious simultaneously, especially in the more smaller, subtle moments (e.g. "There are literally no terms and conditions"). What really makes the story shine is the use of King's illustrations. Full of lavish characterization and creativity, they truly bring Bishop's words to life and really spark your imagination of how grand a 'Book Emporium' could really be.
Bishop also deals with Property being unable to read, though she works in a bookshop. This does not in any way hinder her from being a feisty protagonist, as she (mostly by herself) solves the mystery of Elliot Pink and often puts herself in harms way to do so. Property is brave, funny, likable and you as the reader really root for her. What's important is that it doesn't matter if Property can read or not, her family love her regardless and it's a fabulous message to raise, for those who maybe struggle with reading, no matter what age, and suffer in silence.
Funnily enough, Bishop has also perfectly encapsulated the feeling of working in a bookshop. Having your own sections to manage to dealing with bizarre customer requests ("Do you have any books on quadratic equations with complex roots?"), Bishop comically grasps the frenetic nature of bookshops and of booksellers, but does so with a loving heart. This is, after all, a story about people who love books and who love to read. I just wish we had our own cat at Waterstones like Gunther!
The Bookshop Girl is a terrific read not only for people of all ages, girls, boys, cats, dogs, mums & dads, but for anyone who just loves to read and has the biggest imagination. Charming, funny and wonderful in championing the power of literature, The Bookshop Girl is a true gem.
The Bookshop Girl