Do you know someone who thinks they are better than others because of the sophisticated books they read? Do you know people who shame you for your favourite book? If you roll your eyes at these people, Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop is not for you. Read Roger Mifflin boast about his beloved profession as a second-hand bookstore and how books are the meaning of life. Oh yeah, and there’s a mystery behind a copy of Thomas Carlyle’s Oliver Cromwell.
I want to start with the most infuriating part of the book. It was an homage to books for a majority of the story and while I understand the sentiment, I hate it when authors do this. If we are reading books, we like books. That or we are forced to read the book and your snobbish attitude isn’t helping anyone. Yes, the book was published in 1919 and things would have been different to what they are now, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. The only way to make the story a little bit more tolerable is if I view it in a way that probably wasn’t intentioned. Roger Mifflin, as pleasant as he is, has become so besotted by books that it has blinded him from the main plot of the story. Even though he values reading and is a nice enough character, he shows that the obsession with books can impact negatively on real life. Honestly, this is much more interesting than, ‘books are amazing and if you don’t read books, you’re not smart’.
Even though the main characters were nice, they were just that… nice. Roger Mifflin became a one-dimensional character and Mrs Mifflin as well as Titania – a young student who had to be saved through the power of Dickens – were placid extras. Even though it did give a scene later on more power, it wasn’t worth it. Only Aubrey Gilbert had a life outside of books, which led to the actual plot. On an unrelated note, what is it with classic writers having male characters want to beat the girls they find attractive? It is a really strange trend that people have, and it makes the relationship more uncomfortable than it already was.
The actual plot is rather interesting. It would have been so much better if this was the focus and the love of books was just a background theme. A particular book goes missing, only for the name to be brought up by multiple people. Roger Mifflin is too busy obsessing over other books to put much thought into it (at least they stole a book worth stealing after all), but Aubrey is determined to figure out what is going on. I have to respect the plan of the antagonists, which kind of saves the book a little.
I might be a little bit bias, but basing a book on how amazing books are doesn’t work for me anymore. It feels like it’s pandering to the audience and removes the likability of the characters. It distracts me from the plot, which was actually pretty good, and made the story feel a lot slower simply because I didn’t like what they were saying. I will give this 5.5/10. If you really love books, I think you will appreciate it more than I.
Questions: What is your opinion on books constantly declaring how great books are?