Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Bookseller

The Bookseller is a psychological novel in which the reader spends as much time inside the head and dreams of its main character as it does outside her thoughts.  Sometimes, in fact, it is difficult to tell which is the real world and which is the dream world - and that is as true for Kitty, "the bookseller" for whom the book is titled, as it is for the reader.  Fans of the unreliable narrator device are definitely going to enjoy this one.

Kitty and her best friend Frieda are concerned that the little bookstore they own together may not be long for this world.  Once a thriving place that could depend on walk-in customers served by the city's public transportation system, the bookstore is becoming more and more isolated every day because walk-in traffic has all but disappeared along with the city buses that used to service the neighborhood streets. Worse, new malls are springing up on the outskirts of the city to service suburban customers who no longer even need to come into town to do their shopping. 

Perhaps that is why Kitty lives an entirely different life in her dreams, one in which she is known as Katherine, a name more suitable for the young mother of three children that she is in her dream world.  These dreams, though, are no ordinary dreams.  They are so real, so detailed, and so happy that Kitty looks forward to visiting Katherine's world more and more - especially to spend time with Katherine's completely devoted husband, Lars.  Things are definitely better in Katherine's world than in Kitty's - at least for a while. 

Author Cynthia Swanson
But are things ever that simple?  At the realization that neither of her worlds is perfect, Kitty finds it more and more difficult to live in either of them.  If she could only blend the two, she thinks, picking and choosing what she likes best from each, her life would be perfect - but Kitty knows that is impossible.  Then she begins to wonder which of her worlds is the real one, and more importantly, which one she will choose to inhabit.  

For the most part, The Bookseller is a well-written and intriguing novel, one in which the author slowly provides clues and revelations that will keep the reader guessing right along with its main character.  The problem is that all of that tension ends when Kitty very suddenly figures everything out, and more unbelievably, immediately accepts what she has learned about herself.  The abruptness of the plot resolution left me feeling that The Bookseller may have been edited with a bit too much zeal.  That said, The Bookseller does offer an intriguing psychological puzzle that readers will enjoy trying to solve as they turn its pages.  In the end, it is not a particularly difficult problem to solve, but novel offers a fun ride along the way.

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