The Bookshop on the Corner
“Just do something. You might make a mistake, then you can fix it. But if you do nothing, you can’t fix anything. And your life might turn out full of regrets.”
As soon as I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. It is about a book-loving girl who loses her job at a library and decides to open her own mobile bookshop in rural Scotland. How lovely does that sound? I read this novel in one sitting, on a plane home from Mexico to Toronto, and I found it utterly charming and endearing.
I know it might not generally be a good thing when your favourite part of a novel is its introduction but that was the case for this book. I usually skip authors’ notes but, for whatever reason, I felt inclined to read this one and it was like a warm hug from one reader to another. I immediately felt like Jenny Colgan understood me and it made the story she was about to tell even more personal. This was a very nice touch.
Reading this novel was a bit like catching up with an old friend. Maybe it was because I read it all at once while I was trapped on a plane coming home from a tropical paradise to a snow-covered suburb, but the story was like a warm hug. Sure, there were aspects of the plot that I found a bit outlandish and over the top (I promise not to give them away here), but Nina was so relatable that it didn’t bother me at all.
I loved seeing the characters start to love reading thanks to Nina’s mobile bookshop. As a book lover, I know how much books can help us understand ourselves and those around us a little bit better so it was nice to see this portrayed so lovingly in this novel. I also loved the intertwining relationships between Nina, her best friend Surinder and her old coworker Griffin, and the contrast they had to Nina’s relationships with the people she meets in Kirrinfief: especially the sexist and grumpy man Wullie, from whom Nina purchases her van, Alisdair, Edwin and Hugh from down at the pub, her moody landlord Lennox and the charming pair of train conductors Joe and Marek.
One thing I didn’t really like about this story was the plot of Ainslee and Ben. I thought that the entire thread was a bit out of place in the novel, but the ending felt especially abrupt and unfitting. I didn’t like that the entire novel ended with this subplot rather than with Nina.
One of my favourite aspects of this novel was its descriptions of the parties Nina attended while she was in Scotland. The portrayals were so detailed it felt like I was there dancing and I was a bit sad when I realized I was actually just sitting on an airplane. Any story that can make me forget I am in a tiny seat with no leg room is a welcomed story! I also appreciated the way Colgan contrasted these parties with Nina’s experience when she goes back to visit her old home, Birmingham, and goes out for the night with her friends Surinder and Griffin. The way Nina comes alive and has a blast in Scotland made her night out in the city seem even more cringe-worthy than it normally is to me as someone who would almost always rather be at home curled up with Netflix, or a really great book.
Although I have only spent one day in Scotland (and it was Edinburgh, not the countryside), this novel made me want to get off the plane from Mexico and immediately hop on the next one to Scotland. It is a pretty big feat for a novel to make you miss a place you have never even visited, but Jenny Colgan succeeded with The Bookshop on the Corner.