Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson: Two (Equally Boring) Parallel Lives

The BooksellerI expected to love this story. It takes place in the sixties and follows an independent woman who owns a book shop. She begins living in a parallel world in her dreams at night. When awake, she's the bookshop owner with her best friend. She has a cat and loves her parents and is helping the neighbor boy learn to read.

When she's asleep she's the mother of triplets with this blue-eyed husband who takes her to cocktail parties.

There's a situation with one of the kids that I didn't know what to make of. Am I supposed to feel sorry for the mother? Am I supposed to learn more about aggressive autistic kids? Or am I supposed to believe that sixties' crappola about how if you're not there to raise your kids, they come out wrong in the head? Nevertheless, I gained nothing from this story line and did not enjoy it. If I was Katharyn, the mother and wife, I'd darn well make an alternate reality for myself just to get away.

Actually, I gained nothing from this book. I feel mean saying that, but it's the truth. Parallel lives...would be interesting as heck if both lives weren't so dull. If I'm going to read about someone life--or lives--in this case, please make them more interesting and exciting than my own.

Kitty--she goes to work, talks to her friend, talks to her parents, goes home and sleeps, and of course frets about this dream life.

Katharyn--she does the motherhood/wifey thing, attends a cocktail party or two, shops, fights with her kid.

What is supposed to appeal to me about either life? Kitty's life was dull and predictable, but Katharyn's life was not only dull--but intolerable. Would send me to the looney bin.

And in between these boring lives, the book is filled with boring descriptions and histories. I don't care about Kitty's Freida's high school days. I don't care how the living room looks, from the windows to the carpet to the architecture. I don't care about the neighborhood or all the different people who live here or there.

Long review short: this is the most boring book I've picked up in a while. It's a boring, over descriptive narrative following two extremely boring lives. And the ending really disappointed me. (A point in the book's favor: I did find the ending unpredictable. It seems most readers were predicting it all along. For me, however, I was surprised.) It's not the life I would have chosen...but then again, we don't get to choose our lives. We merely make tiny choices that lead to a big result and we have little control over things.

I received this via Edelweiss.


  1. Can you spoil me on the ending? I read most of this book but just couldn't bring myself to finish it for all the reasons you articulate in your review. Yet I am curious about how the ending resolves the double life conflict.

  2. I'm looking for spoilers too! I'm only a couple chapters in and already ready to give up on this boring book for something better. Sorry, book!