Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.
Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.
From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 20, 2016)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 20, 2016)
I had no doubts that I would love The Bookshop on the Corner as I have read and reviewed two of Colgan's other books, Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery and I loved them both. Plus, it's a book about books and a bookshop--which is pretty much catnip to me. Jenny Colgan's books are the equivalent of a cup of tea and a hug, no matter how bad a day you might be having, it is impossible not to smile and feel better when you read them. Of course they also make me want to pack up everything I own and move to the Cornish coast, or in this case Scotland, and after living in Hawaii for fifteen years, I am pretty sure my blood has thinned enough that I would not make it through a winter (perhaps not even through a spring or fall...). But, there is no denying the appeal of Colgan's hamlets and villages and their quirky residents and Kirrinfief is no exception with its farmers and townspeople more hungry for good books than any of them expected.
Nina, the main character is timid and likes to hide behind her books in most situations, but given the opportunity to match the right book to the right person, she comes alive. Nina is easily likable as she develops, finds her place in life, and looks for her own Happy-Ever-After. I also liked her friend and former roommate Surinder, the two potential love interests Marek and Lennox, Ainslee and Ben-the children she helps, and of course Parsley the dog. There are no big twists or surprises in this book, it is just good, sweet book-loving fun--starting with the author's "Message to Readers," dedicating the book to all readers and giving hints on the best places to read. I know Colgan has a passion for food and The Bookshop on the Corner makes clear her passion for books. There are plenty of references to classic books and genres, and I think some of my most favorite moments were finding out what kinds of books the different Kirrinfief-iens liked. My only (small) complaint is that I want more--more of Nina's story and hopefully Surinder's--so here's hoping for a sequel. If you love to read and think books are as necessary to living as air and food, you will love The Bookshop on the Corner. Enjoy it with a cup of tea and a potato scone or a lager, served with cheese and bread!
Author Notes: Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.
Find out more about Jenny at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Although not food-focused as the other Jenny Colgan books I have read, there is plenty of food in The Little Bookshop on the Corner. There is mention of casserole and potpie, home-baked apple pie and cream, a delicious-sounding sandwich with fresh white bread, slathers of butter, ripe, crumbly local cheese, and homemade chutney with crisp pickled onions on the side. There is beer, lager, and ale, a breakfast ("a meal to be treated with respect") of local sausage, a huge bowl of porridge with honey, and fresh, thick cream, golden-yolked eggs, crispy bacon, black pudding and "triangular things that she thought were just toast but turned out to be some kind of thin potato cake." There were also cherry Bakewells from the service station, a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea, prosecco and gummy bears, cauliflower with cheese, scrambled eggs, local bacon and toast, tea cakes, biscuits and sausages, pina coladas, ginger sponge cake, soup, a picnic of little meat dumplings, blintzes, pickles, fresh radishes and champagne, cullen skink (a fishy, creamy soup) served with rough brown bread and locally smoked salmon, a Bacchus night drink that tasted like fizzy wine flavored with raspberries and breakfast the next day of porridge, bacon in rolls, sausage, kedgeree or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, tea and coffee. Finally there were chocolate cookies, bananas, ice cream, and Irn-Bru (a Scottish orange-colored soda) and a volunteer's lunch of ham with piccalilli (an English version of Indian pickles), mustard and bread, sweating wheels of white and blue cheese, potato salad, "a cool cucumber and green cabbage salad with fennel, orange and oats," and more apple pie with warm, frothing cream from the dairy.
It was the potato scones that caught my eye--both the ones mentioned above and the pre-made ones Nina bought. I love anything having to do with potatoes and after looking online, they seem like a pretty popular breakfast dish in Scotland. I made an Irish version with oats once but I liked the idea of this simple "tattie scone" version. I used this recipe from The Guardian and this one from All Recipes for my scones--although I got lazy and patted mine out rather than rolling them--so they aren't quite as thin as they could/should be. ;-) But, they are quite delicious!
"Both the girls slept long and late the next day. Nina sat up about eleven as Surinder made coffee, and they both looked at something Nina had bought called "potato scones." In the end, they decided to toast them and slather them with butter, which turned out to be a better solution than either of them could have imagined possible, as they ate them looking out into the wintry sunlight."
Adapted from The Guardian and All Recipes.com
(Makes 6 or more, depending on how thin you roll them and what size you cut them!)
1 1/4 lb Russet potatoes
4 oz self-raising flour
1/2 stick butter + extra to fry with
salt to taste
Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with water, salt generously and bring to the boil. Simmer until cooked through, then drain well and return to the hot pan for a minute to dry off. Peel off the skins as soon as you can handle them.
Mash the warm potatoes together with the flour, butter, and salt until well-mixed and a stiff dough is formed. Place dough on a lightly-floured work surface and gently knead it. Roll or pat dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cut or pat into triangles.
Heat the remaining butter in a griddle or large heavy based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Working in batches, depending on pan size, fry potato scones until golden on both sides (about 3-5 minutes per side.)
Serve warm with butter.
Notes/Results: These are just simple, thin little cakes with good, buttery potato flavor. I enjoyed a couple with butter and a cup of tea as my breakfast, but they would be a great breakfast side dish with eggs, bacon, or whatever else you like. Mine could have been a bit prettier and more uniformly and better-shaped but I was lazy and in a hurry to make and eat them. I am sure I will happily make them again.
I'm linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "The Bookshop on the Corner" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.