The Owl is the ramshackle bookshop in New York that Esme Garland frequently browses in while getting used to her new life doing a PhD in art history at Colombia University. Soon after arriving in New York she meets and falls in love with Mitchell van Leuven; the sort of man my Grandmother would call a ‘cad and a bounder.’ Poor naïve Esme finds out that she is pregnant but before she can tell Mitchell he finishes with her in a casually cruel way by saying that the sex isn’t up to much! Ever practical Esme realises if she is going to keep the baby she will need a job. Where better to find one than in the shabby bookshop she loves, staffed by an eclectic mix of people?
I have to say I love this book so much and I was really sad to turn the last page. Who can’t love a book that makes reference to Winston from Orwell’s 1984 a couple of sentences before a reference to Paddington Bear? Unfortunately as this was an ARC I’m not able to quote from the book which is a shame as there are some fantastic phrases not just about art (which isn’t something I know a great deal about so I probably missed out on some of these) and books, but daily observations such as the instructions which come with pregnancy testing kits which had me literally laughing out loud.
The underlying story isn’t complex or unusual and although Esme does appear a little unworldly at times, she is only twenty-three so comes across as a real person. That didn’t stop me wanting to her at times! Mitchell is a truly awful character but there are some delightful ones too including the homeless guys that hang around the perfectly described bookshop. Deborah Meyler certainly has the knack of description down to a fine art so that I could imagine the bookshop with floor to ceiling books double shelved with a battered armchair on the mezzanine where the occasional A-Lister goes to hide away from the world.
This book made me want to visit New York and specifically The Owl so this is up there with my favourite books of 2013 which I would recommend to all booklovers.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.