Book Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
“After all, a town without a bookshop was a town without a heart.”
I love books about the reading life, books, and bookstores. Books like these are like love letters to readers, and I am always here for it. How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry is the latest one I’ve picked up about a bookstore. I grabbed a copy when I visited Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida last week. (If you have a chance to go to the Florida Gulf Coast, you have to go to Sundog. It is truly the most amazing bookstore.) How to Find Love in a Bookshop is about Nightingale Books in Peasebrook, England, just outside of Oxford. Julius Nightingale opened up the bookstore in the early 1980s with his infant daughter Emilia. When Julius dies thirty-some years later, Emilia moves back home to take over the store. When the store’s financials are revealed to be much worse than Emilia originally thought, she must decide whether she should sell to a developer or keep the shop open. The residents of Peasebrook all try to convince Emilia to keep Nightingale Books open.
My favorite Peasebrook residents were Thomasina and Dillon. They are both shy and more reserved, but both feel things deeply. Dillon is the head gardener at Peasebrook Manor and is very loyal to Sarah Basildon and in love with Sarah’s daughter Alice. He never frequents Nightingale Books, but through Alice, he finds himself intrigued by the book Riders by Jilly Cooper. I had never heard of this book, but it sounds super interesting. Thomasina used to come in every week and buy a cookbook from Julius, and now that Emilia is running the store, Thomasina finds herself hired to cater some of the shop’s events. Thomasina has never had a boyfriend or a date, but through Nightingale Books, she strikes up a tentative friendship with Jem, the cheese man. He recommends Anthony Bourdain to her, which was a little bittersweet now after his death.
Emilia’s storyline was lovely. She grew up surrounded by books and music with her utterly charming dad Julius, but she spent the last few years travelling around the world and teaching ESL in Hong Kong. When she decides to come home, she has to figure out how to run the store, while also grieving her father. Julius was a member of a string quartet and was very good friends with Marlowe, who is a few years older than Emilia. In the months that follow Julius’ death, Marlowe encourages Emilia to play the cello again to help her cope. She even joins the quartet. I absolutely adored Marlowe; he understood Emilia’s pain, but also was able to help her find something she was passionate about.
There were so many other wonderful characters, but I think the main and best character was Nightingale Books itself. The descriptions make it sound like the loveliest place in the world. It was cozy and magical, and that is the ideal feeling for a bookstore. Even when Emilia and her new friend Bea decide to redecorate, both are committed to keeping the character of the store very much alive, while also maximizing the space and selling other items like small gifts and even tea and cakes. If I could pick my dream place to work, Nightingale Books would be right up there.
If you are looking for a love letter to books and readers, as well as a lovely English village, How to Find Love in a Bookshop is perfect for you. My only wish is that I had read this in the fall, curled up in front of a fire with either tea or wine, but alas, it is 95 degrees and humid in Georgia. Oh well. Maybe I’ll do a reread later in the fall. I give it 4 stars!
What other books about bookstores do you love?