The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan
The Bookshop on the Shore is a wonderfully cosy, funny and sweet story about family. Colgan’s writing is as witty and warm as ever and the characters are very likeable and relateable, making this the perfect reading escape.
Escape to the Scottish Highlands where a tiny bookshop perches on the edge of a loch!
Dreams start here…
Zoe, a professional child care worker, and single mother to Hari, 4, who has selective mutism, is sinking beneath the waves trying to cope by herself in London. Then her ex sister-in-law suggests she move to Scotland to help run a bookshop…
There her path crosses that of Ramsay Urquart, a widower and antiquarian bookseller, who has a band of difficult children he can’t manage. Can two very damaged people help heal each other?
It feels like forever since I’ve read a Jenny Colgan and I’d kind of forgotten just how much I love her writing. Like all of her novels there’s something very comforting about sinking into The Bookshop on the Shore and it made for perfect holiday reading. It’s a quick and easy read that’s sweet and funny but it also has some depth to it, something I wasn’t wholly expecting.
I think I was anticipating the standard romcom fare but while there is some romance in this it’s much more about family. Main character Zoe is the struggling single mother of a four year old boy with selective mutism who ends up moving to the Scottish Highlands to work in a mobile bookshop and as an au pair for Ramsey Urquart, father of three very unruly children. Parents and children are all damaged in some way and in need of help.
There’s a bit of a mystery around what happened to Ramsey’s wife who disappeared a few years ago but the story very much focuses on the initially difficult relationships between Zoe, Ramsey and the children. It’s a little reminiscent of Jane Eyre or The Sound of Music (both of which are jokingly referred to) but with a contemporary Scottish Highland setting. Zoe is no Jane or Maria but I thought she was a wonderful character. There’s something instantly likeable about her, she’s struggling but she’s absolutely devoted to son Hari and will do anything to protect him.
I loved the portrayal of the bond between mother and son and I also loved how she slowly developed relationships with each of the three Urquart children who have been allowed to run wild. There may be quite a bit of conflict between them as Zoe starts trying to set boundaries but there’s also a lot of humor which I loved.
I also really loved the setting and all of the local characters that Zoe meets. The descriptions make it easy to imagine yourself there (although as a Scot it’s probably not too much of a stretch for me) and I could certainly recognize a lot of the bookshop customers and tourists.
Where I struggled though was with Ramsey, I know he’s supposed to be mysterious and distant but I’m afraid his reserved and quiet nature meant I never really warmed to him. Even now having finished the book and understanding him more, I’m still not wholly convinced I like him and I didn’t really buy into the supposed connection between him and Zoe. He has reasons for being how he is but I’m not sure they justify some of his actions.
Thankfully however the focus isn’t too heavily on the relationship between Ramsey and Zoe but seems to be much more about the children which I loved. Patrick stole pretty much every scene and made the whole story so warm and funny.
Overall this was a wonderful read that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a cozy and warm story about families in all shapes and sizes.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This in no way influenced my review.