Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Bookseller

The Bookseller
by Cynthia Swanson
Harper, 2015. 338 pages. Fiction.

It's Denver, 1962 and Kitty is an independent woman, running a bookstore with her best friend, living on her own, and satisfied with her life, even though romance does not seem to be in her future. However, when she goes to bed, in her dreams it is 1963. She has a wonderfully attentive husband, a beautiful home, adoring children...everything she could ever have wanted. The more she dreams, the more the lines of reality are blurred, leaving both Kitty and the reader wondering what is real.

Swanson writes an interesting story around a theme that is common in Spanish magical realism circles (check out Julio Cortázar's short story La noche boca arriba [The Face Up Night] for the quintessential work using this theme - you can find a lot of English translations on the Internet), but pretty innovative in an English-language setting. What she is able to do is analyze the life of a 1960s housewife and a 1960s single woman at the same time, comparing and contrasting the existence of the same person in different circumstances. And she does an amazing job blurring the lines between the two lives. Both are written with enough detail to leave the reader wondering where dream begins and fantasy ends. Between the innovative styling and the fascinating subject matter, this book will keep you interested and keep you guessing. I consider it a 90% clean read - there are some instances of strong language and one short scene of intimacy.

P.S. - You'll definitely want to compare this to the Cortázar story I mentioned earlier - but read the short story after you read the book. You don't want anything to give away the ending.


1 comment:

AL said...

I really enjoyed this novel, in fact it is probably one of my favorite from last year. This book made me put off my to-do list and just sit and read until I reached the end. I liked the main character Kitty and how she discovered that sometimes it is hard to know what exactly is the best course for your life. I also liked that I was never quite sure how the story-line was going to be resolved but it did have a satisfying ending.