Reprinted from the Citizen.
It’s been a long, dreary winter and while many of us can’t physically escape the cold climate, our minds can venture to another location through the miracle of books. This month’s Book Report takes you away to other lands through two novels.
For those of us who long to go someplace faraway and warm, Delia Ephron’s “Siracusa” takes the reader along on a vacation with two couples to the beautiful town of Siracusa, located on the Italian island of Sicily.
Lizzie and Michael seem to be a great couple. Michael is a Pulitzer prize-winning author who is is having trouble with his latest novel, and hopes that he will find inspiration on this trip. Lizzie wants to visit Siracusa because her late father has told her wonderful stories of a beautiful place.
Finn and Taylor are the other couple, who have brought their ten-year-old daughter Snow along. Finn and Lizzie used to be a couple a long time ago, and if the idea of traveling overseas with your ex and their spouse seems like a bad idea, well, it probably is.
Taylor is very controlling, the kind of person who plans a trip down to the very last detail, leaving nothing to chance. She tries to control everything in Snow’s life as well.
Finn is more free-wheeling, a restauranteur who often goes off on his own to find a great little out-of-the-way dive bar. He begins to resent Taylor and her need to control everything.
Michael enchants young Snow with his wild storytelling. He is having an affair with a young waitress at his favorite restaurant back home, and she is beginning to become more possessive and demanding of Michael.
The description of the scenery of Rome and Siracusa is so vivid, you can almost smell the sea air as you read. There are lots of great food scenes, and your sense of taste is engaged in the novel as well.
Something bad happens in Siracusa, and as the truth unravels, so do the marriages of the two couples. We see the story from the viewpoints of the characters, as they each take turns narrating.
“Siracusa” is a seductive story, and you’ll find yourself lost in the story and scenery of this terrific book. I highly recommend it.
Jenny Colgan takes us to a small town in Scotland in “The Bookshop on the Corner”. Nina works as a librarian in the big city, until the day that her library is closed to make way for a “media center”.
With no job, and a roommate who insists that Nina must get rid of all of the hundreds of books that are overtaking their apartment, Nina despairs of what come next in her life. Books are her life, her friends, the one thing that brings her joy.
Nina sees an ad for a big van and comes up with the idea of running a mobile bookshop. She has enough books to start an inventory, and with so many libraries closing, she has access to many more.
She heads up to a remote town in Scotland, and meets with the man selling the van at the local pub. It’s much bigger than she thought, and the owner scoffs at Nina, refusing to sell the van to her.
The men who own the pub like Nina’s idea because their library closed a few years ago and there is no bookshop in town. They buy the van and call Nina to tell her the good news. They are crestfallen when Nina says that she is buying the van to sell books in her city, not in their small village.
But when Nina discovers that her van is too big for the city and she can’t get a permit, she reluctantly moves to the small village, only until she can figure something else out.
She finds a beautiful place to rent from a recently divorced farmer, and slowly makes friends. Nina loves pairing people with books she knows they will enjoy, and soon she becomes a big part of this remote town. But will she find love with the Eastern European train engineer or the brooding farmer landlord?
“The Bookshop on the Corner” is a lovely, light read that drops the reader into this remote part of Scotland. It’s a beautiful place to visit for a few hours as you lose yourself in Nina’s story, and makes you long for small-town life. And if you are a book lover, this one is for you. I highly recommend it as well.
“Siracusa” by Delia Ephron A-
Published by Blue Rider Press
Hardcover, 304 pages, $26
“The Bookshop on the Corner” by Jenny Colgan A-
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Paperback, 368 pages, $14.99