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Belletrista - A site promoting translated women authored literature from around the world


by Laurence Cossé
Translated from the French by Alison Anderson
Reviewed by Caitlin Fehir

Imagine a bookstore that only sold good novels—not commercial drivel or fluffy installments of the latest teen series, but interesting fiction gathered together by book-loving people who refuse to pander to bestseller lists. Essentially, a reader's version of heaven.

This very store exists in Laurence Cossé's A Novel Bookstore. Set in Paris, A Novel Bookstore is in part a love-letter to reading, and part mystery/thriller. Ivan and Francesca, two strangers who share a passion for books, open The Good Novel, a store with a limited selection of novels, all guaranteed to be great reads. Their stock is chosen by a panel of contemporary French authors who participate anonymously in this new business venture. Of course, this store is an immediate success, and readers from across France fill its four walls every day.

Then, strange things start to occur—the press attacks The Good Novel, the secret panel of authors is targeted, and competing stores open down the road. Francesca and Ivan go to the police, and A Novel Bookstore is essentially their story, as they tell it to a sympathetic detective.

Cossé has undertaken a lot in A Novel Bookstore, and where she succeeds is with her beautiful passages on the importance of reading. Any book-lover will find herself nodding along, bookmarking quotations as though they are validation for the stacks of novels filling her home. The titles and authors mentioned are enough to fill years of reading lists, and Ivan and Francesca are nothing if not fantastic salespeople. I defy anyone who reads this novel to come away without a desire to delve into French literature.

A Novel Bookstore is not perfect. The mystery plotline seemed unrealistic, as one bookstore would hardly be the target of a criminal attack. The straight-forward story of the founding of The Good Novel is enough for a satisfying novel on its own, and this dip into genre only over-complicates a beautiful tribute to fiction.

Faults aside, reading A Novel Bookstore is like stumbling onto a secret club, finding out that there are others who feel the way you do, who are most happy with a book in hand. A reader who focuses on Cossé's evident love of novels will come away satisfied, eager to pick up another good novel.