The Little Shop of Happy Ever After
by Jenny Colgan
Publishing Date: 11th February 2016
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 384
Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
Given a back-room computer job when the beloved Birmingham library she works in turns into a downsized retail complex, Nina misses her old role terribly – dealing with people, greeting her regulars, making sure everyone gets the right books for their needs. Then a new business nobody else wants catches her eye: owning a tiny little bookshop bus up in the Scottish highlands. No computers. Shortages. Out all hours in the freezing cold; driving with a tiny stock of books… not to mention how the little community is going to take to her, particularly when she stalls the bus on a level crossing…
As soon as I’ve seen that Jenny Colgan was writing a new novel, I started to count the days to its release – having read Jenny’s last book almost one year ago I was already missing her writing and her lovely stories. But if the book was written by any other author and had the same title, I would also love to read it, for sure. I mean, „The Little Shop of Happy Ever After” – isn’t it what we all are dreaming about? And after reading the note from the author on the cover of the book and learning that it’s going to be about books and love to books, I started to read it almost immediately after it arrived. I mean, book about books! Hello????
What already had me in a great mood was the list of places where the author reads her books at the beginning of the novel, and believe me, there are some most unusual ones! Nevertheless, I’m very glad to report that I use to read my books in almost all the same places as Ms Colgan, and yes, I perfected the act of reading while breastfeeding my daughter as well! (I probably had the best breastfeeding pillow in the world.)
But, to be honest, the book started very slowly for me and I was already panicking if it’s going to change or not, if it’s going to speed up. And what a relief it was when relatively quickly it turned upside down and I raced through the story, not wanting to put it down for a single second. The main reason for this were the characters. I loved Nina from the very beginning, and it has only a little to do with the fact that she’s as obsessed with books as I am. I would love her even if she wasn’t because she was just brilliant. Believable, totally normal in the ways she was, often living in a la – la land of fantasy and when she embarked on the new adventures I wanted to cheer her on, and I kept my fingers crossed for her. She was really so normal, not sure what she should do, afraid of loosing her job, and I really, really loved how Jenny Colgan brilliantly pictured her, not completely understanding the times that she must have to live in, not so up – to – date with all the modern technology, and yet a totally normal, young girl. She was just a girl after my own heart and I could easily imagine her being my friend. While Surinder was her totally opposite and, to be frank, at the beginning I had some problems to warm to her. She was the voice of reason as opposed to the dreamy Nina, she was the one down – to – earth in contrast to Nina’s flying in the clouds but altogether, she just wanted her best friend to be happy, and in the end I loved her almost the same as Nina. She was uncompromising and she said the things as they were, no beating about the bush.
There were also some male characters in the story and boy, can Jenny Colgan write a male character, mmm, you could really choose from many of them. And sure, there was a little romance in the book here and there, and I loved all of them, but the author has made it SO unpredictable that for a long time I really didn’t know how this part of the story is going to end and if Nina is going to find her happy – ever – after, and if so, with whom. Finally a book that is not so straight – forward on the love – front! But as we are already speaking about guys in the story, please just let me mention Lennox, the sturdy, moody Scottish farmer, and please let me tell you that I’d take him with all his moods, like right now. Even with him not understanding about books and reading (but he will get it eventually) – really, his comments about reading made me cry with laughter, and his dry sense of humour is just my favourite kind.
Then there was the writing style and the language – the story was written in a brilliant, brilliant way, with a great dose of a fantastic humour and laugh – out – loud one – liners. I just couldn’t help but giggled at some of the descriptions and dialogues, sharp and clever and oh so funny, the author was able to drop a word or line here or there that put the whole situation in a different light, and change the whole atmosphere with only one word, and it was fantastic. The sarcastic one – liners, and that you must also be able to read the humour between the lines – it just made the book for me.
But Jenny Colgan champions not only humour in this novel, oh no. No matter what she writes about, if those are dilemmas, uncertainty about the future, or descriptions of the party for the longest night of the year (it was brilliant, BTW, I so loved the feeling of friendship, companionship, and that well, you needed to come with pockets full of money to this party as well, ha ha, and how wonderfully she described the music – I could really hear it!) – they are all beautiful, vivid, colourful pictures that I didn’t have any problems to see in my mind. I also adored how the author was able to capture the feelings of uncertainty that Nina felt, no matter if it was about her love life or her deciding to put all her eggs in one basket and leave everything she knew behind and start afresh – they were absolutely genuine and honest, and nothing in those descriptions felt too pushed, too forced or too far – fetched. Well, maybe the scenes including the train were a tad too unbelievable for my liking and I still can’t imagine how they were able to leave all the things on the tree but I can live with it
„The Little Shop of Happy Ever After” is a wonderful, perfect book, not only for such book – worms as we are – everybody is for sure going to find something to love there. It has believable characters that, sooner or later, we root for, laugh – out – loud dialogues, fantastic descriptions and this overwhelming feel – good factor, and when reading it I didn’t need any blanket or chocolate – the book itself felt like this. No matter if the story deals with more important issues, such like illness or children not going to school, or makes us laugh, it is all done with subtlety and gentleness, and after this slow start I really couldn’t (and didn’t want) to put it down. It made me feel so happy inside and made me believe that there might be a happy ever after for all of us. Thank you, Jenny, for this lovely story!