Monday 3 April 2023

Guest review by Yvonne Coppard: FOUND IN A BOOKSHOP by Stephanie Butland


"A diverse collection of characters ... running the gamut of emotions and experiences as each faces up to the epic challenges of a stricken world."

Yvonne Coppard is a Writing Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund and writer of fiction for children and adults. See more on her website.

When Covid lockdown is imposed, the owner of the Lost for Words bookshop in York faces up to the possibility that she and her staff may lose their livelihoods. Then an old customer asks for help in locating a book, which sparks the idea for remote selling with a twist. As well as ordering specific books, customers can call or email to ask staff to browse and select books for them. Connections are made between a community of people from different walks of life who take comfort and inspiration from books. This is the basic conceit that allows Butland to introduce a diverse collection of characters, weaving their back stories together and running the gamut of emotions and experiences as each character faces up to the epic challenges of a stricken world. There are some heartrending moments but the book is, at heart, a joyous story.

For many of us, those long years of pandemic became a dark tunnel of loss and grief, lit by occasional beacons of hope as ordinary people stepped up to do extraordinary things for strangers they would never meet. The characters in Found in a Bookshop draw the reader into many of the experiences we recognise, in our own lives or the lives of those around us. New relationships begin, old ones strengthen or crumble. There is violence, and loss, and misunderstanding. But there is also humour, heroism and, above all, good old-fashioned kindness.

This is the only book I have read where Lockdown is part of the story. I found any creative attempt to analyse or absorb the events going on around me impossible. Found in a Bookshop is a book I will keep, as a story-snapshot album and aide-memoire of extraordinary times I hope never to see again.

Found in a Bookshop is published by Headline.

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