What happens when a young British PhD student at Columbia University, new to New York with few friends, suddenly discovers she is pregnant – and the baby’s father dumps her? She gets a job in a used bookstore, of course! This is the premise of The Bookstore, a lovely, charming novel filled with beautiful descriptions of the Upper West Side and an eccentric and lovable cast of characters. Esme, the main character, is obviously but not irreparably flawed, and this makes her someone we can all relate to. She’s intelligent, but naïve, a dreamer. She keeps going back to the father of her baby, though it’s clear that he’s the worst possible man for her. Her loneliness and isolation is broken only by her work at the bookstore and her interactions with the eccentric staff and clientele, which include an organic-food health nut, a struggling musician, several homeless people, and a Nabokov fanatic. Even Esme’s obstetrician is a wacky character.
What I liked most about The Bookstore was the author’s use of language. Meyler’s descriptions of New York, and of the bookstore, are lilting and enchanting. Esme’s love for the city emanates from the page, and she captures all the little details of city life with reverence. There are also lots of references to art and literature, some of which are pretty funny – like when Esme confuses the actor David Niven with the author Cormac McCarthy.
I found this book to be chick lit at its most intelligent – a women’s story, yes, but one that is both smart and funny. It’s a lovely read.