"What he wanted was to find that world-within-the-world where he could be himself by himself."
" 'That must be something to discover a book that nobody's ever heard of or everybody thought was lost.'
'It's every bibliophile's dream,' said Francis, and Peter knew in a second that it was his own."
Let me start off by saying that I kind of have a thing for the whole "book-about-books" concept. I love books, and reading, and libraries - so ultimately reading about any of those things usually catches my attention. This one was no exception. It was the last of the seven books I got for Christmas last year. I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to put up the official list, but it should be up in the next few days or so. I've been reading/listening to a lot of average books lately and it was a wonderful surprise to find a book that I couldn't put down. Luckily, I was working at the volleyball gym this weekend and my husband was up north hunting, so I was literally able to spend most of the last few days reading :)
This book had so many wonderful aspects - books, libraries, booksellers, romance, and Shakespeare. I loved the writing style and the different story lines that were woven together. This novel was ultimately three stories in one:
1.) In the year 1995 is a young man named Peter Byerly. Nine months after the death of his wife, he is struggling to pick up the pieces of his life. When I first started the novel, I assumed his was much older than he was. He is essentially an "old soul," reflecting on his quiet life with his wife and working in the English countryside as an antique bookseller - I was surprised to learn how young he was! When Peter receives a call about a estate sale of old manuscripts, he is thrown into following a mysterious and dangerous book trail beginning with the time of Shakespeare. He also meets a women named Liz whom he tries not to like, but just might end up falling for.
2.) Woven into Peter's journey is the story of him and his wife, Amanda. Both quiet and lovers of books, the two meet in college at the library where Peter works. I loved there love story. It was simple and beautiful and cute and romantic and tragic. It made me cry - a lot. I kept hoping the ending would turn out differently, but of course it didn't. And I kept wanting to read more about them.
3.) The third story is one of an old book - a very old book that was Shakespeare used as the material for his play A Midsummer Night's Dream. This was the same book that Peter was investigating. This story traced the book throughout history and readers discovered how it ended up at an old home near Peter. I found it particularly interesting to read about Shakespeare's time and how stories were passed down through different sources.
Another aspects of this novel that I found to be really intriguing was that off book repair and book preservation. As a college student, Peter first finds himself working for the library's circulation department. After he approaches one of the workers in special collections about repairing and old book that he knows Amanda will use, he spends the rest of his college years - and career - learning about and repairing old books. I do basic book repair as part of my job at the Andersen Library at UW-Whitewater and it was really interesting to read about book preservation - especially the process of rebinding books. And, of course, I loved all of the library jargon!
All-in-all this was a great book! I was debating on if I should give it 4 1/2 or 5 starts. The story line of Peter and Liz trying to solve the mystery of the old book was a little farfetched. It seemed a little too much like the Da Vinci Code - which I liked, but I didn't always feel that it fit in with the rest of the story. I have, however, decided to give it 5 stars - simply because of all the "book-ness" of the novel and for the fact that I couldn't put it down. And because of how much I loved Peter and Amanda's story. Highly recommended for anyone who loves books and libraries!
This book was #6 on my top ten list of 2014.