I got to the end of this book with very mixed emotions. I think a part of this was because the story is driven far more by the characters than by the plot and I'd be hard-pressed to define exactly what the plot is. The way it's structured means that it's far more like little vignettes - insights into the disparate lives within a community, all linked through the bookshop. It gives the reader total immersion into the world, but makes it quite difficult to describe what happens. At various points, I had to take a break from reading it because it brought back memories of lockdown and the sense of claustrophobia, frustration and fear I experienced and that was quite hard to deal with. I don't think it helped that I've had respiratory issues for the last six months and the descriptions of people fighting for breath were a little too familiar!
This is definitely a book to make people think and it also reminded me of the power that books had to alleviate some of the anxiety brought on by the pandemic and brought back happier memories of book swapping with my friend and how much our friendship developed because of that mutual reading. It also brought into sharp clarity the ease with which it is possible to put someone in danger, quite unintentionally, because of naivety on our part. The story is as much a social commentary as it is a work of fiction.
I loved the concept of the book pharmacy - so much so that I am trying to figure out if there might be a way of putting into practice something similar in our local library! The choice of books contained within were also excellent. I'd read many of them and completely agreed with their inclusion.
This is not an easy read, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. I absolutely did and will be recommending it to people. I didn't realise before I read it that there was a book that came before it, but I have now bought that to read as well, as I think it will fill in some of the gaps and Archie was talked about so much that I want to know more about him. If you're looking for a book to make you think more deeply about life, then this would be an excellent choice.