Monday, September 10, 2018

The Bookshop

The Bookshop is a film, apparently based on a 1978 novel of the same name by Penelope Fitzgerald. Set in England, mostly in 1959, the movie's protagonist, a middle-aged, war widow named Florence Green (Emily Mortimer), opens a bookshop in a small coastal village in Suffolk, in an abandoned building known as the Old House. She opens her shop against the opposition of the moneyed local elite and determinedly tries to run it successfully until the forces of upper-class entitlement arrayed against her prove overpowering. Meanwhile she makes at two friends. One is the strangely reclusive, book-lover and serious reader, Mr. Brundish (Bill Nighy). The other is a village girl who works for Florence in the shop and is transformed by the experience.

The brutal, hard-ball politics stand out all the more in the seemingly tranquil setting of a post-war English village. More than that, the preoccupation of some with power, money, and status seems that much more empty when set against the uniquely transforming power of literature, which Florence and her bookstore represent (even if only two people in town really appreciate it).

Intended or not, the story stands also as an elegy to the old-fashioned local bookstore, which I remember well but which hardly exists anymore. Browsing bookstores was once one of my favorite recreations, long before such neighborhood culture-bearers had been eaten up by big chains. The future of even those big stores now seems somewhat shaky. The Bookshop reminds the viewer of a world of alternative possibilities, one which we have largely lost, but within which (as the movie's conclusion recalls) one was never quite alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment