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…
Despite having 3 other books by Jenny Colgan sitting on my shelves, this is actually the first one I’ve read. I’ve read good reviews of them all and you can’t fail to be attracted by the covers and I guess I’ve been waiting for the right gap in my reading to come along. Rightly or wrongly I’ve had them categorised as easy & light rainy day reading (though with the amount of rain we get that should have meant I’d devoured all 3). Well if you’ve been like me, don’t wait any more as I loved this one and it’s pure escapism to be enjoyed at any time.
I’ll admit to being hooked from the beginning due to Nina being a librarian faced with re-deployment or unemployment due to her library being closed through austerity measures. As an ex-librarian who thankfully left the public library service before things reached the sorry stage they are at now, I can empathise. As her boss explains to her;
“they were going to compress the library services into the centre of the town, where they would become a ‘hub’, with a ‘multimedia experience zone’ and a coffee shop and an ‘intersensory experience'”
Oh dear, it sounded achingly familiar, meanwhile the building is to be sold off for executive flats and every one lives happy ever after. Unless of course you actually want books, God forbid, that the library should actually be used to house books. As you can tell, I’m with Nina on this one.
As she’s (quite rightly) unable to commit to a life of targets, meetings and ‘interfacing’ with not a book or borrower in sight, Nina hatches a plan – she’ll use her redundancy money to buy up the book stock they’re disposing of, buy a van and set up a mobile book shop. Of course plans are all very well on paper, or in your head, in reality life gets in the way.
The book follows Nina on her journey to achieve her goal, and lets be honest, haven’t we all at some stage just wanted to pack it all in and follow a dream. That’s why it’s so easy to get drawn in. Nina is a warm, sympathetic, caring character you can’t fail to like and you just want it to work. Of course there’s an element of “Escape to the Country” about the whole upping sticks and leaving city life behind, but so what – I’m in.
So Nina finds her van, and herself miles from ‘home’ in the Scottish Highlands trying to make things work. You can’t fail to like the characters she meets and and the place she starts to feel could be home. As she travels around she brings back the magic of books to those, who having lost their library and bookshop, had also lost their love of reading. I’m sure Visit Scotland will be delighted with the pictures painted of a forgotten sense of community spirit and mid summer festivals that would tempt anyone to visit. Of course the book wouldn’t be complete with a little romance, but without any spoilers, you’ll need to read the book to see whether it really does prove to be Happy Ever After for Nina.
I happily recommend this book, it’s the perfect curl up anytime book that meets all my requirements for a feel good read.
I received a review copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.