If I had to pick one word to describe The Haunted Bookshop it would be “charming”. As I was reading it, I felt struck that the old fashioned whimsey could be captured in a play, or in old movie musicals the kind that star Gene Kelly and have a fair amount of tap dancing. Anything that evokes Gene Kelly tap dancing is okay for me.
The Haunted Bookshop isn’t actually haunted. I guess that would qualify as a spoiler and you’d be really disappointed if that is what you were hoping to find in this book. Instead, the bookshop, Parnassus at Home, is haunted by the thoughts and words of all the writers whose books Roger Mifflin half-heartedly tries to sell. He’d rather sit and philosophize for hours about books, good, bad and ugly, and really who wouldn’t? Dream job, am I right? Mifflin is doing just that when Aubrey Gilbert walks in on him. Gilbert works for and advertising firm and is hoping to get a new account. This is post WWI where the benefit of strong advertising started to be taken seriously. Mifflin isn’t interesting, but they have a mutual acquaintance, George Chapman. Mr. Chapman’s daughter Titiana is coming to work for Mr. and Mrs. Mifflin in the bookshop so she can cease to be a frivolous schoolgirl and learn to be a true capitalist. Aubrey meets and becomes infatuated with her while at the same time trying to ingratiate himself to her father. As Aubrey begins haunting (do you see what I did there?) the bookshop in order to be close to Titiana, some strange forces are afoot. A book by Thomas Carlyle keeps disappearing and reappearing. Interspersed with Mr. Mifflin’s soliloquies on all things book there are odd series of misunderstandings and coincidences that end in a bang. Literally.
Sure, this little book has its faults. The characters are ridiculous and one dimensional. The plot is a tad obvious, but there is an innocence about the overall story that is old fashioned and refreshing. Again, as I was reading it I could see it as a play. Not necessarily broadway but a classy high school production with some over actors. What I’m saying is, it wasn’t the greatest story ever written, but it will make you smile. And if this election cycle has taught me anything, it is that the world needs more smiles.