The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

Published November 17, 2021

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

Book info

  • Title The Bookshop
  • Author Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Year 1978
  • Genre Historical

This, Penelope Fitzgerald’s second novel, was her first to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It is set in a small East Anglian coastal town, where Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. Hardborough becomes a battleground, as small towns so easily do. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too. This is a story for anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.


This is a really simple book with only a marginal story to actually tell but where it shines is in the descriptions and characters. It reminded me very much of Elizabeth Strout, where the characters movements and thoughts and day to day living are the priority. At heart, it’s a story about tribalism, about trying to break down some village walls (not literally) and sadly not being able to do so. It’s kind of sad, but didn’t leave me feeling maudlin, so that’s something.

Rating: 3 / 5

← Previous End to End by Alistair McGuinness
Next → Completely Staged by Simon Evans and Phin Glynn