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The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Set in 1962/3 this is the story of Kitty Miller. She leads an unconventional single life, in control of her own destiny, running a bookshop with her best friend, and appears perfectly happy. However, she begins to experience an alternative life where she is married, with children, and leading the conventional life of an American housewife, in an era where, as a married woman, she is seen merely as an adjunct to her successful husband. Torn between her daytime life as Kitty and her dream life as Katharyn, Kitty begins to lose sight of what is real and what is not; can she choose which life to lead, and will she be entirely happy in either?

Apparently this is being made into a film, and I would think it would work really well; it's quite cinematic in style; that is, the characters are not particularly well-drawn in the novel - all a bit one-dimensional - but I can see how they could be fleshed out in a film version; and the 'mystery' of what's going on isn't very mysterious at all, but would be emphatically dramatic in a visual format.

I started off really loving the novel with the telling bits of period detail and the interesting life that the narrator appears to live; unfortunately as the novel progressed and her alternative life came into play I wasn't quite so gripped. It's a great premise; that her seemingly perfect 'dream life' isn't all good, and that her seemingly imperfect 'real life' isn't all bad. The two lives twist together as the book unfolds and as the plot begins to work out, things that didn't ring quite true begin to make sense - a bit like getting to the end of Sixth Sense and going 'Oh, I SEE!'

But I think the issue is that this is a novel entirely about the protagonist's emotional life and after a while I just began to lose patience with it. Some characters are unrelentingly saccharine-sweet (it drove me a bit mad that one character addresses her throughout as 'love' - maybe it's a cultural thing but in the UK it tends to suggest someone who doesn't know your name - taxi drivers, shopkeepers - or someone being patronising). Some much more interesting characters are not fully explored, and there are some period details about attitudes of the time that she needed to address; for instance she meekly accepts criticism from the medical establishment regarding her parenting skills but gets very fired up about the role of the Mexican 'help'

A clever idea, and I enjoyed the beginning but found it a bit of a chore towards the end

Pudding choclates! From Marks and Spencer, a small box of deliciousness - especially the treacle pudding flavour!

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