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
Penelope Fitzgerald was the author of nine novels, three of which - The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels - were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the prize in 1979 for Offshore. A superb biographer and critic, she was also the author of lives of the artist Edward Burne-Jones, the poet Charlotte Mew and The Knox Brothers, a study of her remarkable family. She died in April 2000.