Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

Summer is Jenny Colgan time for me. Well, summer, fall, winter, spring, actually. I'm always ready to read one of her novels. Serious, but not too serious, gorgeous settings, and down to earth women who just want to live life, fall in love, and find what makes them feel complete.

This novel features a few characters from The Bookshop on the Corner, but it's not necessary to read that first. If you have read it, you'll enjoy seeing what Lennox and Nina are up to. And what they've been up to brings Zoe, a single mother, to the shores of Loch Ness. Zoe is on her last dime living in London with her four year old son Hari. Hari's got a bit of a speech problem: he is mute-by choice, as Zoe has learned from doctors. For some reason, he chooses not to speak. Hari's father is a wanderer, and not any financial help to Zoe. On the verge of losing her flat, a friend recommends her for not one, but two jobs in Scotland: as part-time help for Nina's book van, and as the nanny of three children at an estate on the shores of the Loch. She readily accepts the positions, packs up what little she has, and heads to Scotland. 

Zoe is a single mother, penniless, and tougher than she realizes. Arriving at The Beeches, she's not prepared for the three terrors who live there: Shackleton, Mary, and Patrick. There's the part-time housekeepers Mrs. MacGlone who lets the children run wild, as she gamely tries to keep the very large home neat. Ramsey, the children's father, is often absent, traveling around as an antiquarian book seller. Zoe has her hands full, is homesick, and terrified she's made a dreadful mistake. 

What I really enjoyed about this novel was Zoe's growing confidence. All of the things she learned to do because she didn't have money are exactly what she needs to whip The Beeches into shape, along with the children and Ramsey. She makes a lot of blunders, but her determination--and the knowledge that she doesn't have anywhere else to go, so this has to work out--made her shine. She faces every obstacle with grit-and of course some fear, but she keeps moving ahead. 

It took me a little bit to get into the story, but once I was in it zipped along, and I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. There are themes of abandonment, parental failures, parental love, sacrifice, and the whims of Mother Nature. Scotland and the Loch Ness really are part of this novel in the best way, as are the town folk who start out as strangers but come to Zoe's aid when she needs them the most. 

It was wonderful to return to Scotland, even if only for a few days. What I like about Jenny's novels is that there is a happy ending, but one that is actually realistic, and not a fairy tale. 

Rating: 5/6 for a charming tale of a woman's chance to begin again in the last place she'd ever though to find herself. Books, children, family, and love are all a big part of this tale set on the shores of the Loch Ness. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio. 

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