Saturday, 19 August 2017

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan - Review

I'd heard good things about this, but I wasn't really in a hurry to read it. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the title; a bit too close to all those bookshop/teashop titles which seem so beloved by publishers right now (in the UK, anyway). You know - Afternoon Tea at the Little Bookshop on the Corner. Cream Buns at the Jane Austen Cafe. That sort of thing. Which is in no way intended as a criticism of the books themselves, many of which are very good indeed. 

Anyway, turns out I should have read it sooner, because I really loved it. It was a bit of a slow burner for me in the beginning, but once I was a couple of chapters in I was well and truly hooked. 

When a troubled young man, Joey, hangs himself in the Denver bookstore late one night, Lydia, his favourite bookseller, finds herself more involved in his life and death than she ever expected. Initially drawn in by an inexplicable photograph found on his body, and then by cryptic messages left for her by Joey through the medium of his beloved books, the secrets of both Joey's life and Lydia's own begin to gradually unspool, and unlooked-for connections to emerge. 

Lydia is an engaging character, intelligent and compassionate, a survivor of a horrifying event in her childhood which she has never really faced up to. She has found something of a sanctuary at the bookstore, among a diversity of colleagues, and the dispossessed regulars, like Joey, who haunt the aisles and corners of the store. All of these characters are wonderfully drawn. 

The story gathers pace as both Joey's and Lydia's stories emerge but despite a horrible past event and some painful subject matter, never seems to approach the category of "thriller" - it somehow feels more gentle than that, with a writing style that subtly draws you in. A beautiful and ultimately really rather heartbreaking read.

No comments:

Post a Comment