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Book Review: The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

The Christmas Bookshop Plot Summary 

When the retail shop where Carmen works closes, she has no education, skills, or motivation to help her land a new job.  She moves back in with her parents, but it's not long before a new opportunity comes her way.  Carmen's super successful sister, Sofia, is an attorney with a new home in Edinburgh.  With baby number four on the way and her husband out of town on business, Sofia could use an extra hand, even though she doesn't relish the thought of dealing with her contrary sister.

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

As luck would have it, one of Sofia's clients, Mr. McCreedie, is about to lose his beloved bookshop.  He's an eccentric man with little people or business skills, and his shop is dirty, outdated, and failing.  Sofia convinces Carmen to work temporarily for Mr. McCreedie and help him turn things around to see if the shop can be salvaged.

Carmen resents her sister's success, never feeling like she can measure up, and she has no interest in her nieces and nephew.  With few options, Carmen begrudgingly agrees to the arrangement.  She shares a basement space with Skylar, the live-in nanny and college student who's always focused on health and wellness.

Surprisingly, Carmen is encouraged by the great strides she makes in breathing new life into the old bookshop, and her enthusiasm is contagious, even to Mr. McCreedie who has been harboring a heavy secret for decades. 

Carmen manages to capture the interest of both a handsome, celebrity author who is beloved by an enormous fan base, and a young college professor from Brazil, but Skylar tries to derail her chances at love.

Through it all, Carmen learns to see her family in a new light, find a path to healing, and make better life choices, including choosing the right man to love.

The Christmas Bookshop Features Unique Characters

When you read a book, you often subconsciously identify with a particular character and feel like you're walking in their shoes from beginning to end.

I couldn't relate to any of the characters in The Christmas Bookshop, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  

Carmen is uneducated, lacks ambition, and can be snarky, but she's also witty, clever, and original.  Sofia is wildy successful and has the perfect life--the perfect husband, the perfect house, the perfect career, and adorably imperfect children.  She's wealthy and has hired help.  Most of us can't relate to that. 

I would never develop romantic inclinations for Blair, the author and speaker who jets around the globe for engagements, or Oke, the Brazilian Quaker professor with a man bun and odd ways.

Mr. McCreedie is very unusual.  He has never participated in any of the social events with the shopkeepers on his street until Carmen pulls him out of his shell and helps him confront his past.  He serves as an example not to let your past define your future, and maybe that's somewhat relatable.

One of the shopkeepers is even a witch who is cast in a positive light--not something I appreciate, but little is seen of this character.

Whether the characters are relatable or not, the atypical people Colgan creates are charming despite their idiosyncrasies.  The combination of so many peculiar personas adds depth, warmth, and a unique feel to the story while also appearing bizarre and unlikely.  

Is The Christmas Bookshop Worth Reading? 

Edinburgh, Scotland is a wonderful setting for the novel.  Colgan, who lives in Scotland, gives us a birdseye view of this ancient and rich city.  

Jenny Colgan

Colgan also does a masterful job of developing the main character, Carmen, from a downtrodden, self-defeating flunkee to someone who is inventive and inspired and who comes to value family and relationships.  Carmen taps into her hidden talents to achieve her own level of success, proving everyone is good at something!

The love triangle aspect of the book also keeps things interesting, and Skylar adds just the right amount of conflict without making it overly stressful for the reader.

The characters could be a little less quirky, and the profanity is totally unnecessary.  There is talk of sex but no sexual acts.  

I give this novel three out of five starsThe Christmas Bookshop is a worthwhile read, and Colgan is a captivating writer with a unique style you will likely enjoy, even if there are better Christmas romances on the market.  You can find Colgan's book here:


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