Whew– I’d been beginning to think there was something wrong with me, that I had become allergic to books for some reason, rejecting most of the ones I’ve been reading lately. But this gem from Penelope Fitzgerald has restored my senses, cleansed my palate. A widowed 40-something-year-old woman (Florence Green) determines to open a bookstore in her village, proceeding against the powers that be (Mrs. Gamart) who want to use the ancient dilapidated building she’s taken over as an Arts Center instead. She isn’t greatly invested in the books themselves, preferring to get recommendations from other people as to what to stock, but she gambles correctly on 250 copies of Lolita after securing the recommendation from the village recluse, Mr. Brundish. At that meeting he wonders why she asked for his opinion, not a woman’s. “I don’t know that men are better judges than women,” said Florence, ” but they spend much less time regretting their decisions.”
In the end, the evil Mrs. Gamart has her nephew pass a bill in Parliament that allows her to take over the building. Brundish struggles through the fog to Gamart’s doorstep to protest, dying on his way back home. Florence is evicted, ending up defeated on a train to London.