Book Review: “The Bookseller” by Cynthia Swanson (2.5/5)

22635858

Harper, 2015, 352 pages [hardcover]

I had seen some reviews of this floating around Goodreads and other blogs and I was very intrigued. It was also in the staff picks at my library which definitely made me think that I was in for a treat. I always gravitate towards “books about books” which includes books about bookstores!! Unfortunately, though, I did not love this book as much as I hoped to. Looking again at other reviews I feel I might be in the minority so I hope I can do a good job explaining why it didn’t work for me.

The Bookseller tells the story of Kitty Miller who runs a bookshop in Denver in the early 1960s with her best friend. She’s in her late 30’s and doesn’t have any real romantic prospects but is OK with it and has come to terms with being single. However at night Kitty starts dreaming of another life, where she is Katharyn Andersson, married to handsome architect Lars and the mother of three children. As time goes by and the dreams become more vivid Kitty starts to become quite confused as to what really is a dream and what is reality, and starts to wonder where she truly belongs.

There were honestly some things about this book that I adored. I am a huge fan of mid century modern architecture, decor, and just… stuff (products? housewares?), and Swanson’s descriptions of the Anderssons’ 1960s house were so very on point with this. Her writing is truly transportive (is this a word? it’s late here) in this way; I felt extremely integrated into the politics and society of the time, from the gender roles, attitudes about marriage and parenting, fashion, and even the growth of suburbs.

So why didn’t I love this? As great as many of the descriptions were much of the story was a bit boring. I thought that the Kitty/Katharyn character really lacked a spine and I just couldn’t relate to her at all. I love a good twist as much as anyone could but the twists that the author pulled out here just left me feeling kind of hollow. Also without giving anything more away even though I really did feel transported to the 1960s including the politics and attitudes of that time there were a few comments and insinuations made about parenting that as a hopefully future mother some day (in a few years, Mom, I know you are reading this) just upset and angered me (I would be happy to explain more privately just to avoid spoilers).  These faults and more just overpowered the generally good writing for me. 2.5 stars but would not rule out a future Cynthia Swanson book.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Bookseller” by Cynthia Swanson (2.5/5)

  1. This book leaves the reader guessing until the end when Kitty/Katharyn comes to terms with her loss and slips back into her daily life. It is not a book that I would read again but it was an easy read that is perfect for a beach day. If you are looking for a more engaging read try The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry instead.

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