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The Bookshop by Penolope Fitzgerald: My take on the book [review] #book2movie

The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald is a surprisingly affecting little book. At just 118 pages, the novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize when it was published in 1978. The story of two women, one who wants to turn a crumbling, damp old house into a bookshop, the other who wants to use the home for an art center, it’s a strange and unexpected battle. Especially unexpected, that such a small bookish book would be adapted for the screen. There is very little action, and the battle isn’t likely to compete with the Marvel universe for viewers.

It is in fact, a battle in name only. In the tradition of best British manners, no one gets into a huge shouting match. It’s more of a stand-off, the fighting taking place in the stubbornness and resolve of the two women. At first, Florence (played by Emily Mortimer in the film) is resolute, she buys the property despite knowing there are some in the village whispering against the idea. Ignoring them, she goes about preparing to fulfill her own dream of opening a bookshop, the details of which, from stocking shelves to receiving shipments from publishers, Fitzgerald shares in passages that will delight any book lover’s heart—and for a time, the store seems to be a success.

Success, until her nemesis, quietly, behind the scenes, using her powerful clout, sets some gears into motion that ultimately changes things. That's when this small and charming book packs a powerful little gut punch. 

Because we are readers and lovers of books, you and I, we root for Florence even while a tiny part of us wishes something could be done to accommodate the art center as well. Art is noble too, yes? Except, of course, the other woman, Mrs. Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), is a bit of a snooty upper-crusty bitch while Florence is a lovely Every Woman. Meaning every woman (or man) who has ever harbored the dream of opening a small bookshop ... which may be every reader ever! I know I’m not the only one who has a fond fantasy of opening a bookstore cafe! 

Take a gander at how this plays out on film. 
In the movie, Bill Nighy takes the part of Edmund Brundish, a reclusive local who reaches out to Florence with a letter of support. In the novel, Florence sends Mr. Brundish a copy of Nabokov’s then-new book Lolita, asking whether he thinks it advisable to order the book. He responds that she should order it, despite the fact that none of the villagers will understand it, because it will be good for them.  

Taking a look at the clip below, it appears because of the controversial nature of the novel, that the filmmakers have changed the novel in question to Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles

For a lovely and comprehensive review of Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel take a look at RohanMaitzen.com  Ms. Maitzen calls it “a gem of a book: spare but revealing, quirky but unsentimental.’’

The movie looks to be exactly that, “quirky but unsentimental.’’ While our friends around the world are beginning to see the film in throughout May and June, here in the US we’ll have to wait until August 24th.