Natalie Jenner’s previous novel, The Jane Austen Society, was a true favorite of mine. (See review on my blog). I was so excited when I learned that she had a new novel coming out. Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the double thrill of receiving advanced copies of both the audio and print book editions. I enjoyed toggling back and forth between them, being able to listen on my walks and when doing chores.
The audio is read by one of my favorite actresses, Juliet Stevenson. She is brilliant and captures the voices of each of the characters, all of whom have different accents. This audio is a real treat!
Before picking up the novel, I thought that it was a standalone. It can function as that but there are some recurring characters from The JAS. Readers of that book will, undoubtedly, be happy to encounter Evie and some of the others again.
This novel has moved forward in time to the early 1950s. Much of the action (though action is not exactly the correct term for a leisurely read), takes place in a bookshop. This is a bookshop with rules; each chapter is headed by one of them. I loved imagining what the interior looked like based upon the descriptions. I adored the dropping of book title names and the famous real life literary people who came in, including Daphne DuMaurier and Ellen Doubleday.
The story focuses on a number of people who work in the shop. My one minor quibble is that I would call them women not girls, as in the book’s title. Evie is a character from The JAS. A Cambridge graduate, she is not able to easily find a job as the better jobs go to men. How does she get her job in the bookstore? There is some drama around this. Vivien has worked in the shop for a while; she has been thwarted by her inability to advance. She has also faced a tragedy. Change may come for her….Finally, there is Grace. She is presented as calm, practical and less than happy in her marriage. Will anything change for her?
There are a number of men in the story as well. There is the Indian gentleman employee who is interested in entomology. Readers also meet an employee who has a touchy relationship with Vivien. Another character is a Lord who owns the shop. Each of these men is well portrayed. They interact with the book’s female characters.
As was true for The JAS, this is a slower moving book and one to savor. I most highly recommend it. Note: All opinions are my own.
This title will be published on Pub Date 17 May 2022.