If you are a fan of Regency/Victorian era fiction, I highly recommend Belgravia by Julian Fellowes, the writer-producer behind Downton Abbey. The story of Belgravia is rather predictable, but the book gives a nice slice of life in the early years of Victoria’s reign. My only quibble with this work was the author’s inadvertent shifts in point of view. I personally like it when a writer allows me to see a given scene from within the perception of one character—one character at a time, that is. I do not like being jerked from one consciousness to another, from one paragraph to the next yet! I’d be interested in hearing how others feel about this business of point of view.
Ever since I read Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road in the ‘70s, I have loved books about books and their readers. You may recall that 84. . . is about a New York woman who exchanges a series of letters—and goody boxes—with employees in a book shop in London. The exchanges took place while the English were still suffering the post war privations of WWII. Hanff’s characterizations, as well as her insights into books, are nothing short of delightful.
Recently I discovered The Little Paris Book Shop by Nina George. Monsieur Perdu’s book shop is located in Paris on a barge on the Seine. For years Perdu has cut himself off from life, but has acted as a “literary apothecary” for others, recommending just the right books to mend broken souls. Then comes the day when he sets his barge loose and, with an assortment of fellow travelers, journeys on French rivers and canals, still prescribing books along the way. And, of course, he eventually achieves his own degree of wellness.
Finally, I loved The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bovald. Sara, a Swedish woman, travels to Broken Wheel, Iowa, at the invitation of her American pen pal with whom she has shared a love of books. She arrives in Broken Wheel just as the townspeople are attending her friend’s funeral. Broken Wheel is aptly named, for the town is dying, and one would think it a most unlikely location in which to open a bookshop. But Sara does exactly that. Broken Wheel’s recommendations offer treats in both books and characters. Another good read!