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This new novel set in an idyllic English country bookshop is as soothing as it sounds

How to Find Love In a Bookshop by Veronica Henry Pamela Dorman Books
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Would you like to read something soothing?

As various terrible things happen across the world, it is of course important to stay informed and educate yourself through books. It is important to take action, and it is important to be an involved citizen.

But sometimes you just need to take a goddamn break. And few books are more soothing and more conducive to break taking than Veronica Henry’s new novel How to Find Love in a Bookshop.

The story is set in an idyllic English country village just outside of Oxford, where Emilia Nightingale, rootless and purpose-free, has just inherited a bookshop from her beloved father. But alas! Emilia’s father, more prone to romanticism than bookkeeping, has left the shop’s finances a mess. Will Emilia manage to transform the store into a thriving business? And will she — and her charmingly quirky customers — manage to find love from within the welcoming doors of Nightingale Books?

What do you think?

How to Find Love in a Bookshop is a sterling example of the kind of commercial women’s fiction that takes its chief pleasure from watching a competent woman straighten things out, like The Little Lady Agency or Life Drawing for Beginners. These books are often built around love stories, but the real juice comes from the scenes in which the heroine shakes her head grimly at a veritable mess — a pile of unpaid bills, a messy room, an inefficiently laid-out shop — and then rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. It’s an immensely satisfying formula: You’re watching someone make their life better by taking a few simple steps, and it makes you feel that you, too, can fix the world with just a little bit of elbow grease and common sense.

Here’s part of the money shot for How to Find Love in a Bookshop:

Bea’s pride and joy was the total refurbishment of the mezzanine into a seating area with velvet sofas that swallowed you up, and half a dozen tables where you could scoff coffee and cakes while you read your purchases.

“We can get Thomasina to make us piles of madeleines. You have to have cake while you’re reading. It’s the law,” Bea said enthusiastically. And she ordered half a dozen glass domes and a marble-topped table to display the cakes.

Fix yourself a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. Find a nice comfy sofa that will swallow you up. And then sit down and read something soothing. It’s okay. The world will still be there when you’re done.