“We want splendid books … books that prove to us that love is at work in the world next to evil, right up against it, at times indistinctly, and that it always will be …”
Francesca and Ivan are kindred spirits in search of their perfect bookstore, where Danielle Steel and Dan Brown are nowhere to be seen. Instead, they arrange for eight of France’s eminent authors to submit lists of the very best books, and thus a bookstore is born. When it’s too successful for their enemies’ liking, however, sinister events begin to overshadow their beautiful project.
Cossé jumps right into the mystery with three attacks on committee members to open the book; only once the bookstore’s proprietors go to the police do we get all the background information. As a result, at the start there are a non-trivial number of people who have little context and their criticality to the progression of the plot is unclear for quite some time. However, by choosing to reveal everything through conversation with the police officer, Cossé neatly gives herself a vehicle for the proprietors/protagonists to interact and converse and add some humour to what could otherwise be a slightly dry (if intellectually stimulating) back-story.
There is an occasional first person narrator, which is offputting given the third person omniscient in which most of the book is written. I struggled to figure out who the first person narrator was – and then was quite irritated when I realised it was a person who had been referred to by their name several times in the book in the third person. In addition, there is not enough distinction between Francesca and Ivan; their voices and actions and characters are very similar.
A charming enough story; a weak ending and insufficient distinction of characters lets it down. If you like the idea of The Good Novel Bookshop, though, it’s worth a read – a serious amount of book chat that’s very enjoyable.