It took me some time to make up my mind about this book. The reason for this is that it triggered two different reactions in me. I couldn’t decide how to feel about the concept of the bookstore portrayed in the story. On the one hand this is a story about the love for reading and literature and I certainly felt a connection to the characters. I also couldn’t help but think: “What a bunch of snobs!” Even though my overall feeling while reading was a rather warm and fuzzy one, this sentence went through my mind from time to time. 99% of the books mentioned by Francesca and Ivan in their discussions about which books to get for their shop are unknown to me, which made me question my knowledge of literature and my reading habits. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it made me feel looked down upon and a bit patronized. Is it wrong to sometimes want to read something trashy? I don’t think so. And who determines what a “good novel” is, what is worth reading? In a way Ivan and Francesca’s project is a bit arrogant and a lot of the bookstore’s enemies in the course of the novel respond in a way similar to what I just stated. While reading I even sometimes thought that they were not all wrong in their protest.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful book (I gave 4 stars, didn’t I?). The love for literature is portrayed beautifully, I felt inspired to open my very own bookstore and had the wish to talk to Ivan and Francesca about books and life and everything. But then again, would they want to talk to me? Here comes the ambiguity again. I can’t make up my mind about the concept of literature promoted in this book. Maybe this feeling of snobbery and elitism is only due to the fact that it’s a French novel and therefore mostly deals with French literature, which I know next to nothing about. Maybe I would have felt differently about it if it had dealt with German or British literature.
The concept of literature promoted in this book is definitely debatable. What I am certain about is that this is a beautiful novel about the love of reading, which I liked very much.