The Bookshop, Penelope Fitzgerald, 1978

This is another small gem of a novel by one of Britain’s foremost authors, winner of the Booker Prize and greatly prized by James Wood who reviewed a recent bio of her in TNY.  In this tightly told story, the focus is on the precisely drawn and beautifully developed characters in a small village in East Anglia, on the sea and little visited or known.  Except that everyone knows everything about everyone.  Florence Green, widowed and in her 60’s, buys the Old House and converts it into Hardborough’s (all the place and people names are evocative of their natures: Gipping, Gamart, Drury) first book store.  Assisted by 11 year old Christine and the mysterious Milo of the BBC, she runs afoul of The Stead’s Violet Gamart who wants the house for an Arts Centre.  Not much happens, but the story ends on a terribly sad note though one does have the notion that Florence will persevere.  Great character descriptions.