Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never, ever show you.
Into her hiding place – the bookstore where she works – come a poet, a lover, and three suspicious deliveries.
Someone has found out about her mysterious past. Will Loveday survive her own heartbreaking secrets?
Loveday Cardew isn’t exactly great at small talk, and prefers to keep people at a distance. The only person who she probably considers something close to a friend and makes an effort to show that she cares about is her employer – Archie – who gives her a job at a time when she was still in the foster care system and was hoping to get out of as soon as possible.
The story is told in three timelines – most of it is in present but there are two smaller past timelines which gives us an insight about two significant phases of her life that has shaped much of her current cynicism and anxieties – her childhood and an abusive relationship. When she meets Nathan – a magician by day and poet/poetry slam organizer by night – she is happier and starts believing the prospects of a new relationship and an easier time at connecting with people again. But a series of suspicious deliveries – books belonging to her parents – at the bookshop – makes her wonder whether a person’s past can truly ever be put behind.
This book is delightful if you are a bibliophile!!! It is strewn with references to all kinds of books from different genres – especially classics. The book timelines are divided into different sections and named after genres – for example: poetry, crime, travel, history and so on. Poetry ends up playing a very important part in the story as Nathan and Loveday end up meeting and performing at poetry slam often. In fact, there are quite a few free-verse poems in the book.
Another aspect of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed was reading about the “inner-working” of a second-hand bookshop. There is a lot of “sorting and shelving the books” paragraphs and I never got tired of reading them. I found it sooo interesting because I guess it is something I have always wondered about .. how are all the books collected and sifted through and put on sale at a second-hand bookshop? It is always a hotchpotch collection of books from different genres – varying from coffee table books to first-edition collectibles and they have to price them, decide what can be cataloged for sale on their website, and what can be sold at throwaway prices.
One running theme with books featuring local bookstores is how it is almost always never really a profitable business and lucrative career option and the people in it do it just for the love for books. It is the same with Archie and Loveday too. Archie is independently wealthy so he doesn’t really depend on this for a livelihood. For Loveday, this was her first chance at being independent and leaving the foster care system behind. But, she never really envisions doing anything else. She could have tried to explore some other career options and study further after completing her A-Levels but she doesn’t. As we know more about her, we see how books went from being something that she associated with happy memories at her childhood home to something that became some sort of a coping mechanism after she lost much of that childhood.
There is a lot to love about this book even if you don’t care much about the whole “bookish” aspect of it. It handles grieving for everything lost and forgiveness to move past that loss sooo well. Forgiveness is messy and grey. Burdening kids with the onus to forgive quickly and make sense of something that even adults struggle with is not fair. I loved how that lesson was underscored so vehemently.
The themes addressed in this book reminded me of Little Big Love by Katy Regan except that I felt more satisfied with the way this book concluded.