Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Cynthia Swanson's novel, The Bookseller, is a remarkable debut. The unusual story takes readers back to the early 1960s in a story that can't be called time travel. Dream travel sounds too gimmicky, which this story is not. At times, it reminded me of It's a Wonderful Life, which is even mentioned in the book. It's best to say The Bookseller is an unusual story about a thirty-eight-year-old woman searching for answers in her life.


By day, Kitty Miller runs Sisters, the Denver bookstore she owns with her best friend, Frieda. But, just recently, she finds herself living an entirely different life when she sleeps at night. There, she's Katharyn Andersson, married to a wonderful man named Lars. She's a housewife with children, and the bookstore and Frieda are no longer part of her life. Kitty is drawn to Lars, and her life with him. And, each day she finds it more difficult to leave that life behind. But, as she slips deeper and deeper into her alternate life, she discovers problems that aren't evident with one bedtime visit. And, then she discovers the choices she makes in one world changed lives in the other one. There are consequences to even the smallest choices in her life.

Swanson beautifully sets the scene for this book, 1962 and 1963, mentioning books that were popular at the time such as Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes and Cold War novels such as Fail-Safe and Seven Days in May. In fact, the Cold War is there in the background, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fears around it. And, of course, for 1962-63, the Kennedys, and the clothing women wore to emulate the First Lady. Clothes, music, houses, shopping centers; everything combines to set an appropriate atmosphere for this novel. And, anyone who appreciates books will look for each mention of the books of the period.

It's a story that works because of the time period. Part of the novel involves women's roles in life, whether they choose to marry or have a career, remaining single and "a spinster". There's the struggle of a woman who wants to have everything, a job and a family, and the emotional conflicts that result. There's so much more in the Kitty/Katharyn story, but further discussion would reveal too much about the storyline and Kitty/Katharyn's issues.

Unusual. Unique. Those words describe Cynthia Swanson's excellent story, The Bookseller. It's a solid, fascinating debut.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson. HarperCollins. 2015. ISBN 9780062333001 (hardcover), 352p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

14 comments:

Kay said...

I want to read this one. There was another cover that had more vintage look. Love the time period bits and pieces. I was a little young to actually remember much about this time, but I do remember more about the later '60's.

Beth Hoffman said...

Terrific review, Lesa! I have the feeling I'd enjoy this book. Happy weekend to you and your kitties!

Lesa said...

My ARC has a different cover, Kay, but this is the cover art I found. Very interesting book.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Beth. I definitely think you would like this one. And, there' said cat named Aslan! I think you'd really appreciate one of the angles I didn't cover in the book review.

Reine said...

Lesa, I love the time and setting. I'm going to order this. another thank you. Don't know what I would do without all your reviews!

ceblain said...

I have recently discovered a lot of good English themed books and have been enjoying them immensely. This one looks and sounds really good. Would love to be considered for a copy of it. I love the hat that she is wearing on the cover!!!

Thank you,
Cynthia B.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Reine. You know how much I enjoy suggesting books. I hope you enjoy it!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Cynthia. Just wanted to let you know, though, that this one isn't a giveaway.

Carol N Wong said...

I am very interested in this book because of the time period too.

Lesa said...

I hope you enjoy it, Carol.

Grandma Cootie said...

Thanks for this review. Your description has made me want to read it. Putting it on my TBR list right now.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Grandma Cootie. I hope you enjoy it!

Wendy Allex said...

Lesa, I just finished reading this book, based on your review. It was marvelous! So well-written and interesting. Loved the cat, loved the relationships, loved the story. Thanks for your review!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Wendy! Now you can see why I really couldn't say much more about the book without giving it away. I'm glad you liked it!