I love Jenny Colgan's writing, so I jumped at the chance to read The Christmas Bookshop during the holiday season. And, I was every bit as charmed and heart-warmed as I expected.
Carmen has been working at a department store for years but it's been slowly going downhill. When it closes permanently, she's at loose ends and has no choice but to return to her parents' home. Her sister Sofia lives in a perfect house in Edinburgh with a perfect husband and they have lucrative jobs, both lawyers. Sofia is expecting her fourth child and when their mother asks Sofia if she can possibly find a job for Carmen, Sofia realizes that Carmen might be the person who can help a small bookstore owner, Mr. McCredie, at least get his business in enough shape to sell it as a going concern instead of an empty storefront. Mr. McCredie is more of a bibliophile hermit than a businessman and has frittered away his entire inheritance. He's about to lose everything.
Carmen is not interested in living with her accomplished sister in her fancy house but a bookshop sounds like a decent place to earn a little money. What she finds is a disaster. The bookshop is dusty with mostly antiquarian books, no organization, and no hint at Christmas decor. Carmen's a little overwhelmed, at first, but then she gets to work cleaning, organizing, decorating and creating events to draw people in. While doing so, she meets two men who appeal to her. One is a famous author with perfect teeth and lots of money. The other studies and lectures about trees.
Can Carmen draw in enough traffic and sell enough books to help Mr. McCredie's shop keep going? Or, will Christmas be the end of her job and the bookshop, entirely. And, what about those two guys? Will she let the wealthy man who writes inspirational books sweep her away? Or, will she find herself with a sudden interest in trees and man buns?
Highly recommended - A lovely tale of friendship and love in snowy Edinburgh at Christmas, worth buying to save for next year if you're a Christmas book fan or downloading right now if you need a little upper. There's a lot of tension between sisters Sofia and Carmen so this book fit the "sisters who learn to get along" theme that I love (because I have a sister with whom I have little in common) but there's so much else I loved about this book. I loved taking an armchair visit to Edinburgh. Because she mentioned a lot of sights, I had fun looking things up on my phone. I loved visualizing the quirky little shop and seeing in my mind's eye what Carmen did to make it lovely and grab the interest of people passing by. I loved how Carmen interacted with her nieces and nephew, encouraging the one who was most like her, who was experiencing similar frustrations as a sister and student. And, I really want to see the giant tree that drew Oke, the dendrologist, to study in Edinburgh. I'm pretty sure I've read about that same tree elsewhere (it's about 2,000 years old) and I enjoyed reading about it again. I also adored the relationship between Carmen and Mr. McCredie, a wounded soul whose emotional and work life Carmen improved.
In fact, I loved the world she built in Edinburgh so much that I really didn't want to leave it. But, The Christmas Bookshop has a perfect, lovely, satisfying ending so I closed it with a smile on my face and I may have shed a few tears.
Many thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy! I will hang onto this one for a reread. I'm not big on reading seasonal books otherwise, but Christmas is a big YES.
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