Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
My Rating: 3 stars
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.
Unpopular opinion time, I didn’t love this book. I mean, I wanted to and based on the synopsis and all of the glowing reviews I was pretty positive going in that I would but it just didn’t work for me. It may just be a case of poor timing, I was in a grumpy mood, but I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by it and the more I read the more irritated I got.
In theory it should have been the perfect read for me, quirky characters, a bookshop setting, lots of literary and pop culture references, a cat and a little bit of romance. And there was definitely a lot to like but there was something about the writing style and the tone of the story which rubbed me up the wrong way from the very start. Yes the characters are quirky and eccentric but it feels like it’s trying too hard. I think it’s supposed to be funny but it wasn’t really my sense of humour so I found it a bit dull and by the end was left wondering what the point of it was.
I guess it’s supposed to be about Nina’s development from anxious introvert to someone who puts themselves out there with other people but to be honest I never really bought the anxious introvert thing so it didn’t seem like there was much development. If I’m being brutally honest I didn’t even like Nina that much. Anxious and introverted just seemed to mean rude, inconsiderate and judgemental (there’s some serious book snobbery). Someone who has a wide circle of friends, is out every night of the week and seems to like being at the centre of things doesn’t sound very introverted or shy to me and she had no problem standing up for herself or speaking her mind. I expected much more of a loner, not a social butterfly.
The story itself did have promise. Nina discovers she has a whole family she didn’t know about and meets them while simultaneously getting to know quiz team rival Tom who is inexplicably (she’s nothing but horrible to him) interested in her. If there had been a little more depth or emotion I think it could have been a really good story but the tone remains upbeat and quirky throughout which I think sort of spoiled things.
The switches in perspective from one paragraph to the next also confused me. The majority of the story is from Nina’s pov but every so often it’d switch to Tom or one of the other characters, usually in the middle of a chapter with no indication. It’d take me a few seconds to figure out what’d happened by which time we’d be back to Nina.
I’m also not sure I saw the point of cat Phil other than to go all out on the stereotype of bookish spinster with cat. And having Nina imagining what he was saying just seemed silly, like pretty much most of the things she imagined.
As for the romance, it felt a little tacked on and lacklustre. There wasn’t any real chemistry between them and she was so rude to Tom I honestly couldn’t see why he bothered.
There were a few nice moments, I liked a couple of the secondary characters and I do love a book with lots of literary references but I’m afraid on the whole it was a bit of a disappointment.
4 thoughts on “Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill”
I had lots of similar feels, I expected to love it so much… but I didn’t warm up to Nina and that romance wasn’t what it should have been for me either. Glad to find someone with the same thoughts. Thanks for sharing Ali!
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Fab review! I’m sorry you weren’t able to enjoy this one better… I guess being unable to connect to Nina is a real dealbreaker with the story focusing so much on her.
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It’s odd because everyone seems to love it but it just irritated me. Possibly it was my mood as it was a bookclub pick rather than one I picked up because I felt like it. It didn’t score very highly with the rest of the bookclub though so possibly not for Scots 🤷
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I think it depends very much on how you react to the main character and if you are in the mood for this kind of book… I did enjoy it myself, but then again I was craving contemporaries at the time.