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The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

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Shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too. Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.

Click here to read Penelope Fitzgerald's son-in-law discuss her legacy to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth.

If you like Penelope Fitzgerald you might also like to read books by Esther Freud and Anita Brookner.


The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop.


'Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality - the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.'
Sebastian Faulks

'Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.'
David Nicholls

'Its stylishness, and this low-voiced lack of emphasis are a pleasure throughout, its moral and human positions invariably sympathetic. But it is astringent too: no self-pity in its self-effacing heroine, who in a world of let-downs and put-downs and poltergeists, keeps her spirit bright and her book-stock miraculously dry in the damp, seeping East Anglian landscape.'
Isabel Quigley, Financial Times

'Penelope Fitzgerald's resources of odd people are impressively rich. Raven, the marshman, who ropes Florence in to hang on to an old horse's tongue while he files the teeth; old Brundish, secretive as a badger, slow as a gorse bush. And this is not just a gallery of quirky still lives; these people appear in vignettes, wryly, even comically animated...On any reckoning, a marvellously piercing fiction.'
Valentine Cunningham, TLS

About the Author

Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. She was the author of nine novels, three of which – The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels – were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award, and this helped introduce her to a wider international readership.

A superb biographer and critic, Penelope Fitzgerald was also the author of lives of the artist Edward Burne-Jones (her first book), the poet Charlotte Mew and The Knox Brothers – a study of her remarkable father Edmund Knox, editor of Punch, and his equally remarkable brothers.

Penelope Fitzgerald did not embark on her literary career until the age of sixty. After graduating from Somerville College, Oxford, she worked at the BBC during the war, edited a literary journal, ran a bookshop and taught at various schools, including a theatrical school; her early novels drew upon many of these experiences.

She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.

Click here to read Penelope Fitzgerald's son-in-law discuss her legacy to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Fellow novelist Katharine McMahon on Penelope Fitzgerald...

I was introduced to this author just as I began to be published, and I love her wit, and her quirky approach to plot. The Beginning of Spring is a delicious novel, and it's as if the entire book is pitched towards the very last few lines. This reads like a small, perfectly formed, Russian novel, but amazingly is written by a very English author.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd January 1998


Penelope Fitzgerald

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Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


176 pages


Literary Fiction
Family Drama
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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