The Bookseller
The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: This is not my bedroom

This is a book about a woman who has dreams of living a life completely different from her own. Literally dreams of it. She goes into a parallel reality at night and spends time in the life that could have been.

I don’t know what to say about this book. I felt I was maybe the wrong audience for it. There are people who love it and I can’t imagine why. This is another one of those books that had a lot of potential and it all went nowhere.

When I started reading I had a lot of theories about where this could have been going. All of them more interesting than where it actually went. Maybe it was the sci-fi/ fantasy reader inside me trying to make a boring plot more interesting. I think the most interesting diagnosis that could be given for this book is that it is about a woman going crazy. That by far makes more sense than what the writer was trying to say. Which was apparently nothing.

I felt that Swanson tried to make incomplete statements about a lot of things very unsuccessfully. There were scattered commentaries in mental illness, grief or racism or loss or autism but none of them were followed through enough to actually mean anything. If you’re going to go down a certain road and not explore it all the way, unfortunately you’ll end up going nowhere. Like this book. 

This book was disappointing in a lot of ways but here are some things that personally irritated me
1. The Mexican maid. Clearly Swanson tried to portray her as a smart person which is why I wondered why she found it so difficult to string simple English sentences together. Most of the time she seemed to have okay grammar and vocabulary. She can use terms like’handful’ and ‘household’ and ‘college degree’ but apparently the term ‘baby’ ‘children’ and ‘new’ are too much for her to grasp after years of living with an English speaking family. Did the writer feel people would forget she was Mexican if she didn’t keep throwing little words in to remind them?
2. Overly descriptive passages of household items. A good writer would have this skill down but obviously Swanson isn’t there yet. Her long winded detailed descriptions didn’t make me feel like I was there, like I’m sure she intended. It just irritated me and made me wish she’d get on with the story. I really didn’t care that the carpet matched the curtains while the sofa had colorful cushions on it in the living room and her bedroom had a bedspread that matched her curtains which went with the general theme. I did not want to know that her bathrobe had a boring color that matched her slippers in multiple worlds. And I cannot stress this enough, I don’t want to know what angle your bathroom cabinets are slanting at and what height this makes them come up to. What am I expected to do with all this useless information? Get on with it.
3. Lars. Why did he seem not at all concerned about the deteriorating mental condition of his wife? If someone tells you that you and your children are not real and that they have trouble remembering most of their life I would think a little more concern would be in order. Apparently not giving a damn about a woman losing her mind is on the checklist of an accommodating and accepting husband.

I am all for parallel realities. But why would you create a world in your head that is so boring and tedious and downright stupid? Am I supposed to feel sorry or sympathetic? Should I feel lucky? Should I see something I didn’t before? If you wish this book didn’t have to end that’s probably because there’s nothing you can take away from it the way it is. For me, it was slow read with a predictable end that didn’t come fast enough.

Favorite Lines:
1. I think suddenly about what it means to grow old. It means that all those that you loved as a youth become nothing but photographs on a wall, words in a story, memories in a heart. (pg. 43)

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