Review: The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

A witty, sharply observed debut novel about a young woman who finds unexpected salvation while working in a quirky used bookstore in Manhattan.Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.

Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.

The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?

A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them, The Bookstore is also a story about emotional discovery, the complex choices we all face, and the accidental inspirations that make a life worth the reading.

Source: Netgalley


This is probably the easiest and longest review I have ever written. I have to confess, I have never highlighted so much in an e-book before in my life! Every moment I read this book I had another thought about what I would write in this review. There are quite a few of my opinions I won’t get to mention, but I’ll try my best to get as much in as I can!

The main character in this story is Esme Garland. In all honesty she was not a character I particularly liked. She made so many mistakes, constantly changed her mind on a moment’s notice without any thought about it and acted like a selfish child for quite a lot of the story. With that said, she was a very real character. Her selfishness came through a few times, the most prominent occurrences being when she repeatedly planned, and sometimes followed through, on spending her money she had earned in The Owl on books or knickknacks, when in reality she should have been saving every last penny for herself and her baby to live once the baby had arrived. But this seemed so real, so true to what a person would actually do. She wanted some things for herself and had to sometimes avoid thinking of the very hard future ahead of her. However her selfishness manifested itself in a way that I cannot approve of no matter how much I hate the character of Mitchell. When she realises she is pregnant she tries to tell him but he breaks up with her before she gets a chance. Instead of telling him then, or perhaps in the next few days, that she is pregnant, she keeps silent. When he finds out and confronts her she replies with:

“Why would I tell you, if you didn’t want to be with me?”

Um, maybe because he is the father and it is his right to know? Regardless of whether he broke up with you or not, he deserves to know that he had a baby on the way. 

Her choice in men I am even less forgiving about. She is a stranger in a foreign land that does not seem to have many friends and fell in love with, quite possibly, the single most awful man I have ever had the displeasure to read about. Mitchell Van Leuven made no sense to me whatsoever. Not a single one of his actions seemed plausible and I find it very hard to understand how Esme even came to like him, never mind love him, in the first place. He had not a single nice thing to say throughout the book and his one redeemable quality, if you like, was that he was rich. That’s it. He was a rude, manipulative, patronising, arrogant, horrible man. He had to have everything his own way and wanted everything to be a sort of drama. An example of a way he manipulates Esme into doing exactly what he wants could be found when he tries talking her into going out and she does not want to.

“Say yes, or I’ll have to start looking through my little black book. Say yes, or I’ll call Clarissa.”

Who even does that? Even worse she decides to go out with him! I don’t know about you but if a man ever had the audacity to speak to me like that he’d be very sorry, not agreeing to meet him for drinks.He also treats her like a child, constantly feeling the need to correct her, because of course he is “all knowing”.

“Oh, pain au chocolat!” ….. “It’s a chocolate croissant in these parts…”

“There was a raccoon! I think so, anyway.” “No, they’re nocturnal. It was probably a rat.”

I truly don’t understand why she continues to see him! To me, as a reader, her attraction to him made absolutely zero sense. Mitchell annoyed me every time he was even mentioned. He even had the daring to tell Sheila, a friend of Esme’s, that “she was gay because she hadn’t met the right man yet”!

Mitchell seemed to find pleasure in other peoples discomfort and this is the only explanation that I can find for how he acts within the novel. But I will not accept it as an excuse for how he acts in the latter part of the novel. He gets far worse in his actions towards Esme and yet she still forgave him everything. When they break up she pines for him quite desperately. I understand that when you go through a breakup you tend to overlook the other persons flaws, with some willing to take back their ex’s. However Esme takes this to a new extreme. Granted, she is pregnant with his child but that never seems to be even part of the reason she overlooks his actions. She repeatedly thinks he is interested in other women and sleeping with them and yet still wants to be with him! She can’t even bring herself to trust him!
I could go on and on about how bad a boyfriend Mitchell is to Esme; I could tell you about how he openly stares at and describes another woman’s breasts and calls them delectable to get a rise out of Esme. I could tell you how, when Esme leaves, he gets the woman’s number. Or I could tell you about how he then tries to push Esme, 6 months into her pregnancy, into a threesome with this woman. But if I get into all that properly I’ll keep ranting until this review is pages and pages long.

As much as I hated every page Mitchell was on, I did actually enjoy this novel. In many respects it was very realistic, though some of it was phrased quite awkwardly with the author trying extremely hard to be deep and meaningful. I'm afraid that I have reviewed very little of my actual novel, because I was so caught up in the main characters. But in all honesty, while the author tries to make this about more than Mitchell and Esme, In reality it isn't. That said, all in all I really enjoyed the book and thought the ending absolutely perfect for this story. I would recommend it if you can resist the persistent need to punch an imaginary character.


Let me know what you thought in the comments below. Did you read the book and like it? If you didn't read the book are you going to read it now?

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