One woman. Two completely different lives. Which one is real? Or are they both real? Is she just completely delusional - having a psychotic break?
I can't say too much about the story itself as there's many twists and turns and I would hate to give anything away, but I can tell you it grabbed me and didn't let go. I was totally engrossed in Kitty and Katharyn's lives and spent much time myself trying to figure out who was the real girl or if Kitty was living through someone else's mind.
The fact that Kitty and her friend also happen to own an indie bookstore is a bonus in my mind. :)
I highly recommend this book. This is Cynthia's fiction debut and I say Bravo.
Scroll down after the description to read an excerpt and also a Q & A from Cynthia.
March 3, 2015
About the Book
A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams.
Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .
Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.
Then the dreams begin.
Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.
Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?
As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?
Literature and Commercial Fiction: What’s The Difference?
By Cynthia Swanson, Author of The Bookseller (Harper, March 2015)
“So what genre is your book?”
I get that question a lot. If I give the answer my agent used to sell the book - “upmarket commercial fiction” - the response is generally a blank stare.
So instead I say, “It’s a book club book.”
“Oh!” The lightbulb comes on. Everyone knows what that means, right?
1) You can read it reasonably quickly. If you’re in a book club, you know that once a month you’re going to be expected to read something you didn’t choose. And if it takes you all month to get through that one book - well, that’s a month in which you don’t read any books you selected yourself.
2) You can relate to it. The plot gives you something to think about. You might be able to link personal experience to what the characters go through. Maybe the book gives you insight about an issue you’ve been grappling with.
3) You can talk about it. There’s enough material for a meaningful conversation. The discussion might not last for hours and hours; sometimes the “book part” of the evening is equal only to the amount of time it takes the group to finish its first bottle of wine. But there’s meat in this book - questions to answer, ideas to toss around, valid reasons why something did or did not ring true. There’s more to say than, “Yeah, I liked it, too.”
So doesn’t that make it literature? Is there a difference between literature and upmarket commercial fiction? And if there is, who cares?
I’ll submit that A) yes, there is a difference, and B) nobody - except book reviewers - cares.
What is literature? Well, we all took high school English. We know which classics are considered literary.
But what about modern literary works? I think they’re the heavy-hitters - the books with gorgeous language, the kind where you get immersed in the writing itself. Sure, there’s a plot, and yes, it moves along - kind of - perhaps a bit languidly. But damn, that writing is so beautiful, you don’t really care whodunit.
Good - upmarket - commercial fiction is different. It’s plot-based, so it generally reads quickly. But unlike much genre-based fiction - romance, mystery, fantasy - the characters are not typecast. Instead, they’re well-developed and complex. Their problems are relatable and compelling. And often the plot resolution is not obvious.
Reviewers who have been at it a long time know the difference. They don’t expect literature to be commercial fiction, or vice-versa. They read a book with an understanding of its genre, and they review accordingly.
Does that mean all readers should approach books that way? Of course not. (See point B, above.)
You know what you like. You know when a book speaks to you. The genre doesn’t matter; the story does.
Our love affair with books - like all good love affairs - is entirely subjective. What I like may leave you scratching your head in confusion. And vice-versa.
That being said, I believe that an understanding of genre can help readers manage expectations. Just as you’d want to know a blind date’s name, age, and a few basic facts before you head out for that all-important first cup of coffee together, it helps to approach a book with an understanding of what it might and might not be.