Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.
Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.
The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?
A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them, The Bookstore is also a story about emotional discovery, the complex choices we all face, and the accidental inspirations that make a life worth the reading. (Goodreads)
I requested this book via NetGalley for several reasons:
A.) The cover was beautiful and caught my bookish attention (yea, yea, don’t judge a book by its’ cover).
B.) The description of the story sounded promising involving literature, a British female lead and quirky friends.
C.) I love debut novels by new authors.
The description provided by Goodreads is specific enough to know what you are about to read once you crack the pages or swipe the escreen of The Bookstore. But it doesn’t mention the beautiful writing. As I mentioned in my reasons for requesting it, I enjoy reading debut novels by new authors. Deborah Meyler is a very talented writer and has a promising career. Her writing is intelligent and honest and once you read her bio, you’ll understand how she was able to pull off so much of the content and extensive references to literature and art history.
I truly liked the character of 23 year old Esme Garland. She has a genuine kindness, honesty and intelligence that was refreshing to read. As the description states, she finds out she is pregnant by her newish boyfriend, Mitchell and debates whether to keep the baby or terminate. Regardless of your stance on the topic, she has a truthful internal debate with her mothering abilities because of her youth, possibility of being a single parent and her education commitment. Of course she is strong enough to carry on regardless of all three hindrances and much of her commentary about pregnancy was accurately funny.
Mitchell van Leuven is ten years older and “jerk” isn’t quite the right word for him. I can think of many other choice words but I’ll keep this review clean. I get why Esme stays in love with him throughout the story even with his mercurial behavior. One minute he says really romantic and profound things, even acting like a devoted, caring boyfriend. The next breath he is down right rotten and his family is no better. He’s so confusing and Esme just wants to remain hopeful and be loved. She is no mousy type, though. Esme has no problem going toe to toe with Mitchell, his parents and an ex-girlfriend that has a brief part in the story. But back to Mitchell. I am not a psychologist but he is definitely “damaged goods” and we never really find out why he is the way he is.
I loved this quote from Esme about love:
“I know I will regret this, I know that worthy heroines in Regency romances never say yes when there is any doubt as the state of the hero’s heart, but I am made of flesh, not words.”
and this one,
“But then, attention isn’t necessarily love”.
ooh and this one about “infatuation”,
“I think there is no difference between love and infatuation. If it works out, we call it love; if it doesn’t, we shrug our shoulders and say it was infatuation. It’s a hindsight word.”
See? Isn’t Esme bright and clever? And there are many more throughout the book about love, life, motherhood and friendship.
The writing is a literary gem. At times, though, I felt like a dunce with having to look up some of the rich and descriptive words. The literature and art references are abundant and you will be writing down or highlighting unfamiliar books and authors that were mentioned to sink your teeth into.
A final “character” I want to mention is The Owl, the bookstore where Esme frequents and eventually begins working. The store is another member to the story as New York was considered to be the 5th character in “Sex and the City”. There are several quirky characters who work at The Owl who I loved: George, Luke and the homeless men who stop by and help out daily. They truly become friends to Esme and it’s beautiful how they look out for her and value her intelligence while at the same school her in the ways of the world. It reminded me of that little vintage store which is struggling alongside the big box stores and chain coffee shops. It’s existence is more vital than people know.
“There has to be old things as well as new things. There has to be-there has to be old stone to new building, old timber to new fires, old books to new minds.” -T.S. Eliot and Esme
The Bookstore will be released August 20th, 2013.
*I received an advance, uncorrected reader’s proof from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley. I was not required to review this book and wasn’t compensated for the review.
I couldn’t find a website for Deborah Meyler but you can read about her here on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6544795.Deborah_Meyler