‘Penelope Fitzgerald’s wonderful Booker-nominated novel. This, Penelope Fitzgerald’s second novel, was her first to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It is set in a small East Anglian coastal town, where Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. ‘She had a kind heart, but that is not much use when it comes to the matter of self-preservation.’ Hardborough becomes a battleground, as small towns so easily do. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too. This is a story for anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.
‘Its stylishness, and this low-voiced lack of emphasis are a pleasure throughout, its moral and human positions invariably sympathetic. But it is astringent too: no self-pity in its self-effacing heroine, who in a world of let-downs and put-downs and poltergeists, keeps her spirit bright and her book-stock miraculously dry in the damp, seeping East Anglian landscape.’ Isabel Quigley, Financial Times ‘Penelope Fitzgerald’s resources of odd people are impressively rich. Raven, the marshman, who ropes Florence in to hang on to an old horse’s tongue while he files the teeth; old Brundish, secretive as a badger, slow as a gorse bush. And this is not just a gallery of quirky still lives; these people appear in vignettes, wryly, even comically animated!On any reckoning, a marvellously piercing fiction.’ Valentine Cunningham, TLS’ Nielsen Bookdata Online
This is a nice little book, not wildly exciting, but then it doesn’t pretend to be. Fitzgerald’s use of her language superbly draws a portrait typical of the time, late 1950s, place, small market town on the Suffolk coast, and the people inhabiting the town. She quietly tells her story, full of insight into character, amusing with a dry wit.