Bibliophile

Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa for Spanish Lit Month


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This is is a novel I would not have discovered without the review at seraillon. And it is without a doubt a book I would have sorely missed had I not read it. At sixty-four pages, it can be read in a single evening…for some of you, in a single hour. But, it is not a book to be rushed.

Is it a mystery? Is it an ode to the love of literature? Is it a romantic story of one bookseller’s passion for a beautiful woman who comes in and steals his books? It is all three.

Our narrator owns a bookstore named La Entretenida (literally, The Entertaining) into which Severina walks one day. When she leaves, she has “slipped two little books from the Japanese section into her bag.” Every time she comes to the store she takes a few books. Every time she takes a few books he records the missing titles along with the date and time. But, he does nothing to stop her.

In fact, he falls in love with her.

It is almost with obsession that he follows her and her grandfather, whom he has been told is her husband by another bookshop owner, to their pension. Even though he knows where she lives, temporarily, and rents a room there for himself, she remains elusive. From what country does she come? How have they remained in Spain with false passports? All of her belongings fit into one small backpack, for she seems to live on books alone.

Of course that is fantastical. But it is a suggestion that I feel Rodrigo Rey Rosa offers up. And as a fellow bibliophile, I find myself not questioning the veracity of this story at all, especially as her grandfather explains it quite clearly below:

I ought to begin by pointing out, though it shouldn’t come as any surprise, that we’re really quite ordinary people. I have my ideas, and she goes along with them, but in her own way, of course. Books have always been my life. Both my father and grandfather lived exclusively from books, each in his own way – books of all sorts. And I’m not speaking metaphorically: books are our sole means of subsistence,” he said and then fell silent.

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett (and give-away)

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…I cannot help but be reminded of the dangers that befall those who succumb to their first impressions.

Sometimes, first impressions can be a good thing. I remember reading of Charlie Lovett’s book, The Bookman’s Tale, on Nadia’s blog and being delighted to win a copy of it for my own. When the chance to read his latest book, First Impressions, came my way I eagerly accepted this book based on my first impression of hearing about him months ago.

Even when Jane Austen warned readers long ago of the fallibility of first impressions; how wrong we can be when we trust our initial reaction.

This charming novel depicts a relationship between Jane Austen and a clergyman of 80 years of age. Theirs is a tremendous friendship based on literary pleasures. They love to read to each other, and they love to share in the development of characters Jane created in her books Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and most importantly, Pride and Prejudice.

Balanced against this picturesque tableau is the present day life of Sophie Collingwood, a bibliophile of the first order. When her beloved Uncle Bertram is found dead, Sophie is thrust into discovering the true cause of his death as she cannot believe that he simply fell down the stairs outside his home. It is a home which had been stacked from floor to ceiling, on every conceivable horizontal surface, with books. These were the treasures that he shared with Sophie all her growing up. They were to become her own library in due time.

But when she takes residence in her uncle’s apartment, which had been left to her, she discovers that all the furniture, and worse, all the books, have been sold. More distressing than that is the way that she has received requests from two men, each of whom want a second edition of the book which had been written by Jane Austen’s friend.

Sophie embarks on a quest to answer the question of why “the second edition of a painfully dull book of allegories merited all this cloak and dagger intrigue.” For she is seduced by a handsome man named Winston, while fending off threats from another man named Smedley, and wondering how much a third man, named Eric, really means to her.

This is a book which imagines a thrilling scenario behind the story of Pride and Prejudice, casting doubt on Jane Austen as the true author, while immersing the reader into the lives of fellow bibliophiles all the while. One feels at home in the company of Sophie and her uncle, Jane and her friend, and the old book shops filled with dust motes and musty smells. One longs to reread a favorite Jane Austen novel upon finishing this book which has fleshed her out so well.

Penguin books has given me the opportunity to give away this book, plus a classic copy of Pride and Prejudice, to one reader (U.S./Canada only, please). If you would like to enter in the give-away, simply leave a comment with your favorite Jane Austen novel.

(Congratulations to Heidi who has won a copy from the publisher!)