Review: The Bookseller

Posted 15 April, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

The Bookseller
By: Cynthia Swanson
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

Fun fact about me: I loooooooooooooooooove the movie Sliding Doors. So mentioning it in the premise definitely piqued my curiosity about this novel and enough to spur me to pick up the book early last year 😉

It took a few chapters to orient myself to what was going on, who Kitty is, and what’s going on in her life that her other life was a stark contrast to it. It also took a few chapters to fully introduce the mystery and have Kitty actively seek out what’s going on with herself and compare the differences between the two lives; it’s intriguing but also a bit chilling in a way (people who are alive in the other world aren’t in this one, certain places aren’t built or neighbourhoods developed, etc.). It became quite unputdownable; I kept saying “One more chapter” but it became two or three as I wanted to know more about what’s going on and if there’s any root cause behind it.

I thought the characters that populate the story were really interesting: Lars is an absolute sweetheart, and I love that Kitty called her cat Aslan. Her friendship with Frieda is wonderful too, though it took a good number of chapters before we got some proper backstory with their friendship and what she’s like, etc. That they own a bookshop together is really cool, and reading and books is something very important to Kitty, but some might be disappointed that the bookshop doesn’t take a larger part of the story.

What the premise of the novel doesn’t really hint at is that despite of shinyness of her alternate life–married, children, home, etc.–there are also problems and complications. I was surprised and intrigued that there was a whole secondary storyline

Spoiler Inside SelectShow
That and other matters really hits home the idea that despite of whatever differences and shinyness there are to Katharyn’s other life, it also comes with its own set of problems, that there will be problems and failures and different relationships; you can’t have it all, I guess is what I’m trying to boil it down to.

The Bookseller is an interesting and fairly fast-paced novel looking at life choices and instances and seeking happiness and what’s important to you. The ending might be a little trippy for some; it does start asking the question of which version is reality, and it did leave me wondering as to how the author would resolve this mystery It could’ve worked either way (both had its losses), but the version the story went with made sense and in a way it seemed happier. I would recommend this book if you’re interested in books looking at those “What if?” scenarios in life.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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4 Responses to “Review: The Bookseller”

  1. Sounds a bit like ‘My Other Children’ by Jo Walton which I loved. I’m totally into the ‘Sliding Doors’ concept in books so I’ll probably give this a go 🙂

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