One of our recommended books is A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse

A NOVEL BOOKSTORE


Ivan and Francesca decide to open a bookstore devoted solely to good literature and their love of books. Frustrated by the glut of mediocre books printed every month and envisioning a true literary paradise, they offer a selection of literary masterpieces chosen by a top-secret committee of like-minded literary connoisseurs.

To their amazement, after only a few months, their vision proves popular. Very popular. Tucked away in a corner of Paris, the bookstore quickly becomes a haven for bibliophiles. Indeed, it becomes so successful that the great majority of Parisian readers are now buying their books only at Ivan and Francesca’s store,

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Ivan and Francesca decide to open a bookstore devoted solely to good literature and their love of books. Frustrated by the glut of mediocre books printed every month and envisioning a true literary paradise, they offer a selection of literary masterpieces chosen by a top-secret committee of like-minded literary connoisseurs.

To their amazement, after only a few months, their vision proves popular. Very popular. Tucked away in a corner of Paris, the bookstore quickly becomes a haven for bibliophiles. Indeed, it becomes so successful that the great majority of Parisian readers are now buying their books only at Ivan and Francesca’s store, and other stores in the city are starting to change how they order and display books too. Now big publishing’s powerful elite are desperately trying to adapt their business model to the demand for quality above all else. As the store’s success grows, venomous comments begin circulating online and the owners, and their selection committee, become the target of vicious editorials and threats.

A Novel Bookstore blends book love and bookstore love with a brilliantly conceived and entertaining mystery and is a delight for readers of all tastes.

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  • Europa Editions
  • Paperback
  • August 2010
  • 424 Pages
  • 9781609455781

Buy the Book

$18.00

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About Laurence Cossé

Laurence Cossé worked as a journalist before devoting herself entirely to fiction. She is the author of Bitter Almonds (Europa, 2013) and An Accident in August (Europa, 2011). A Novel Bookstore is her ninth novel. She lives in France.

Praise

“Marvelous and stimulating.” The San Francisco Chronicle

“A hymn to fine literature.” Le Figaro

A Novel Bookstore is…a declaration of love for the art of the novel and its effects on human history.” La Croix

“Cossé poignantly depicts characters who have turned to literature for solace against the pain in their lives.” Publisher’s Weekly

Discussion Questions

1. Despite close ties to the story’s main characters, the narrator of A Novel Bookstore remains anonymous until the end of the book. Why? How does this affect the reading experience?

2. Van and Francesca’s friendship begins with a conversation sparked by books. (Van comments on Francesca’s purchase of three Cormac McCarthy novels.) Soon after they begin talking, Van says: “You have just confirmed to me that one of the most fortunate purposes of literature is to bring like-minded people together and get them talking” (pg. 81). Is this a statement truer of books than of other art forms? And if so, what is it about books that make them so conducive to conversation? Has a book ever brought you closer to someone?

3. Why is the relationship between Anis and Van initially so unstable?

4. Van and Francesca open the bookstore in response to what they see as major problems in the book world. Great novels, they believe, are drowning in an ocean of mediocrity. And in many ways, A Novel Bookstore is itself a sharp criticism of the publishing and bookselling industries. As one of the selection committee members says: “They’ve made a covered market of literature, where a few bestsellers take up all the room. By ‘they’ I mean the major publishers, the journalists who act like sheep, the wholesale distributors of culture” (144). Is this a valid criticism? And if so, why do great novels not get the attention they deserve? How do you learn about the books you decide to read?

5. The narrator is not the only shadowy character in A Novel Bookstore. Anonymity is prevalent throughout. Many of the attacks against The Good Novel are made by unknown figures, the selection committee is anonymous and Francesca’s involvement in the bookstore remains a secret for as long as possible. How does anonymity affect the course of events? Would things have turned out differently if members of the selection committee had been made public from the start? If so, how?

6. The Good Novel is attacked in the media on numerous occasions. In the op-ed pages of Le Bigaro, for instance, the Executive Director of a large chain bookstore suggests that The Good Novel has “a certain amount of class condescension” in its agenda. By comparison, he writes of his own stores, “Our love of the novel and of the book is so great that that we cannot see why, or even how one could exclude, by means of a selection process, ninety-nine percent of all the titles available. Our passion, and our cause, is to respect the diversity of cultures and the diversity of individuals” (241). Is there any validity to this argument? Or to any of the criticisms of The Good Novel?

7. What is the role of bookstores in the age of the Internet and e-readers?

8. Discuss the tone of the ending. Is it optimistic about the future of The Good Novel bookstore?

9. What books have been important to you? Why?