I got this as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, but it turns out the book came out months ago, so this isn’t really that ‘advanced’.
Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry, and she tucked a love letter into his favourite book in his family’s bookshop the day before she moved away. She waited for him, but he never came. Now, she’s returned to the city – and to the bookshop – to work alongside him, although she’d rather not see him for the rest of her life. But she needs the distraction: her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.
As Henry and Rachel work side by side – surrounded by books (*quiet screaming*), watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages – they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.
+ It’s a book about books
It’s stuffed full of references, discussions, and mentions of other books, mostly classics, but there’s a few modern ones in there. The family sits around the table and talks about what they’re reading with each other. Henry reads Rachel poetry. Henry’s family owns a (failing) second-hand bookshop where he and Rachel have sleep over sometimes. There’s shelves where customers of the shop can write notes and leave letters in books and people meet each other through the pages (I think having a library where you can leave letters for others to find is amazing by the way) (but the letters are included in the book and I did find myself skipping over them).
I want a physical copy of this book so I can tuck myself into the pages and live there forever.
The main characters (and secondary ones) combined with the dialogue is what makes this one of my favourite books of the year so far. Henry and Rachel are ex-best friends who are slowly becoming friends again, and Henry is a book nerd in love with a girl who doesn’t love him back, and Rachel is severely depressed and often rude, but their banter is still everything, and it’s what makes me invested in their relationship. Here are some more quotes (not just by Henry and Rachel) that I want to share but don’t want to put in my quotes section at the end:
“How do you feel?” Lola asks.
“Like I’ve just had every single one of my organs harvested while I’m still alive.”
“Good to know you’re not overreacting,” she says.
“I’m pleasing to the eye, aren’t I?” I ask.
“Hard to tell,” she says. “I’m blinded by your ego.”
“What?” she asks.
“Your head,” I tell her, “is a very pleasing shape.”
“Likewise,” she says, and smiles.
+ The secondary characters are amazing
I can’t express how much I love all the secondary characters – they’re all so developed and easy to love, and have complex and interesting and heart-breaking storylines. I just want to protect all of them. George (Henry’s little sister) broke my entire heart.
+ The plot (or lack of plot)
My brain is a reverse sponge where it gets rid of things instead of absorbing them, so I had completely forgot what this book was supposed to be about by the time I got to reading it. But, even as I got halfway through reading it, then three quarters of the way through, I still wasn’t entirely sure what the book was supposed to be about, even though all the words were there on the page (screen) in front of me. But I guess it’s a plot about people, rather than a plot about events. The characters are what propelled the story onwards.
So, I still have no idea what this book is about, but the prose is what drew me in. The book is written in a way where I could clearly see the scenes I was reading as if they were on the big screen, and I hope someone makes this into a film. Hopefully, it’s a good film. The passion that the characters have for books is captivating, and the entire story felt like a love letter: hopeful and heartbreaking.
Basically, I love this book a lot.
Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 stars)
- “It was a strange night. I look back and the thing I remember about it is the sky. I hadn’t seen one like it before. Flat and starless, as though the world had become a box with a lid on it.”
- “No offense, Dad,” Henry says, “but unrequited love is just as shit in the morning as it is at night. Possibly more shit because you have a whole day ahead of you.”
- “In my perfect world I wouldn’t worry about money. In my perfect world books would be with us forever and everyone would love secondhand books as much as Dad and George and I do.”
- “Do I dare disturb he universe? he read, and I don’t know what the poem was actually about, but lying there next to him, with his voice so close to my ear, I wanted to disturb something – I wanted to disturb us, shake us out of him seeing me as Rachel, his best friend.”
- “Doesn’t love fall somewhere in the big scheme of things? Isn’t it the biggest scheme?”
- “Love’s insane. But surely it’s not fucking insane.”