Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Bookseller - Cythnia Swanson

The Bookseller
Title: The Bookseller
Author: Cynthia Swanson
Publication Date: 3/3/15
Pages: 352
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 4/4/15

Summary: Kitty Miller, Denver resident in 1962, lives a happy life as a single woman and co-owner of a bookstore. Suddenly, she begins having dreams where she lives life as Katharyn Andersson in Denver 1963. The longer she stays in the dreams, the more she wants to stay and the less certain she is which one is reality. 

What I Thought: I flew through this book, reading the whole thing in a day or two. While its not perfect, it's an absolutely charming first novel. I think, particularly within a community that reads so many first novels, it's easy to become jaded and expect some combination of mediocrity, inexperience, and an author still trying to find her voice. I, personally, was very impressed with Swanson's introductory efforts with this book.

I think what made it interesting was knowing from the start that both realities could not be sustained. You knew one would have to be put aside by the end of the book. Yet, Swanson keep you tied to both, rooting for each one to be the "real" one at different points. I appreciated the gradual understanding you gained of Katharyn's world. What appears in the beginning to be perfection slowly reveals its cracks and hardships. 

I have noticed some criticism from other readers that Kitty/Katharyn was not inquisitive enough, that she didn't spend enough time trying to figure out clues and details to determine which world was real. I think this is a weak complaint. If the same circumstance happened to me, I certainly would have done things differently than the protagonist, but I do not fault her as a character or a person for doing things the way she did. They were dreams, after all. At the start, she had no reason to see them as anything more than the imaginative rumblings of her brain. Do you spend a lot of time in your dreams seeking out telling details or just live the experience? My point exactly. Once the dreams progressed, Katharyn did spend increased time seeking answers.

Another thing I have seen criticized is Swanson's take on autism. As someone who has had very little first hand experience with autism, I do not feel qualified to take this on, but I want to at least make a few comments. Yes, the handling of autism is tough, but it does ring true to the experience of a mother in the 60s. Swanson was not writing a character with the perspective of twenty-first century medicine and research. She was writing a hurting mother who questions her own responsibility for the illness and consequential ability to love her child fully. Again, I thought Katharyn's responses were appropriate for her circumstances. I had no problem with the way Swanson wrote about this issue because I kept the historical context in mind.

Cynthia Swanson
I really enjoyed this book. It pulled me in and kept me asking lots of questions and seeking for clues as to which life Kitty/Katharyn would end up in. I do think I will reread it at some point if for no other reason than to seek out more of those clues. In the mean time, I'll keep my eyes open for any other work Swanson has published. 

*To read other bloggers' thoughts on The Bookseller, check out the full tour schedule.*

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Likely

A Reduced Review: As the lines between two lives become increasingly blurred, this book becomes increasingly difficult to put down. 

1 comment:

  1. You make a good point about the time period in which this story takes place. It's often hard to remember that people just didn't know what we know today, and it can be an effort not to judge them because of it.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!