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In “The Bookstore” by Deborah Meyler, Esme Garland is a young British woman who has come to New York as a Ph.D. student to study art history at
From the many films and ads she has seen, she feels as though she already knows the city, but she also still feels like a foreigner. Studious and charming, she meets and has an affair with Mitchell van Leyven, a native New Yorker, who is 10 years older, rich, smart, cynical, handsome and has a charismatic personality that appeals to everyone.
At the beginning the reader is led to believe that Esme is quite independent, but throughout the remainder of the story she is presented as inconsistent, dependent and insecure. Though Mitchell can be arrogant and disloyal, they are dating, and Esme loves him.
Then Esme finds herself pregnant, and before she can share the news with Mitchell, he dumps her. This on again/off again relationship throughout the story wears thin, and Mitchell’s character becomes very predictable.
Now alone in a foreign city, Esme is a student, pregnant, with no income. She wanders once again into The Owl, a quaint used bookstore where she has become a regular. This quirky second-hand store on the upper west side of Manhattan is owned by George, an eccentric individual more interested in books than customers. George and his assistants, paid staff, homeless people, dog and other regular customers add a certain charm to this story. “The Bookstore” characters become a sort of surrogate family for Esme. The literary references keep the reader thinking but at times the book is too wordy and many descriptions do not contribute to the plot.
Luke, the store’s laid-back, guitar-playing night manager, becomes a support for her as well as her friend and neighbor, Stella. Both George and Luke know Esme well from her numerous visits as a customer, and George offers her a job. Esme explains that she has no experience at working in a shop and, while as a student she is in the country legally, it would nonetheless be illegal for her to work. She takes the job as she has no money and now has to support a baby as well as herself.
This debut novel presents various themes about womanhood, the value of life and independence. The author’s description of this quaint little bookstore will appeal to booklovers.