Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Door-to-Door Bookstore by Carsten Henn

Title: The Door-to-Door Bookstore
Author: Carsten Henn
Translator: Melody Shaw
Publication: Hanover Square Press, hardcover, 2023 
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Present-day Southern Germany
Description: Carl Kollhoff worked for many years at an old, established bookstore called City Gate. After his mentor, Gustav Gruber, the bookstore owner, retired and his jealous daughter Sabine took over, the bookstore changed. Sabine pushed Carl off the selling floor and his only activity now is hand-delivering special requests to a handful of clients. These evening hours are the happiest part of Carl’s day as he knows exactly what each person wants in a book and takes pride in producing what is needed. Then a nine-year-old girl who has been watching Carl decides to accompany him on his rounds. Unused to children, Carl tries to discourage her but, despite himself, he comes to enjoy her questions and commentary. Schascha is a fixer and her energy and determination to solve the problems of all the stay-at-home readers worries Carl, who is more apt to respect others’ privacy. But everything goes wrong when the elderly Carl is attacked one evening and it will take all of Schascha’s ingenuity to repair the situation.

My Impression: There is a sappy genre of fiction like A Man Called Ove, which this book resembles, that involves taming a curmudgeon. The Door-to-Door Bookstore was somewhat sappy and predictable yet still surprisingly appealing. Carl is far from curmudgeonly: he is kindhearted if not very discerning about other people. He lives for his books and those who require his literary expertise:
“This book,” said Carl, taking one from the pile next to the till, “has been waiting for you since the moment it was unpacked. Set in Provence, and every word scented with lavender.”

“Oh, Bordeaux-red books are the best! Does it end with a kiss?”

“Have I ever given an ending away?”

“No!” she pouted, but took the book out of his hand.

Carl would never dream of recommending a nvel without a happy end to her, but on no account would he rob Ursel Schafer of the tiny thrill of wondering whether this one would be different.

“I’m so glad there are books in the world,” she said. “I hope that’s one thing that never changes!”
Carl is too good-hearted to resent Sabine, whose jealousy took away his livelihood and most of his pleasure; instead, he has created an evening routine where he brings carefully curated books to a small group of people, each of whom has a reason for staying home. Making the rounds gives him great satisfaction.  Carl meets their reading needs but it is Schascha with questions and a notebook who tries to understand the why - their emotional needs. She figures out ways to help these individuals out of their ruts, which is good practice for when Carl has a crisis and she is the only person who can harness the power of his many friends to support him.

Source: Library. I read this for the de Grummond Book Group. While I wouldn’t advise running out to purchase it, I enjoyed spending a few hours with Carl and his book-loving acquaintances.


RuthW in MD said...

When I picked up this book, I had no idea how different it was. No love story, no husband and wife story, just characters listening to each other and trying to keep going. I really enjoyed it.

TracyK said...

I like the cover of this book, it really attracts me. And set in Germany. I will definitely get it, I will put it on the book sale list first.

I am reading A Man Called Ove now and I don't find it sappy at all. I have about a third of the book left, I hope I can finish it tonight but probably not.

CLM said...

Well, maybe not sappy but deliberately tugging at your heartstrings? I didn't expect to enjoy Ove for that reason but I did like it. This book made me feel the same way. I think this is someone one might well find at a book sale because it's the type of book that is read once, enjoyed, then passed along.

TracyK said...

You are right, I resisted A Man Called Ove at first because of that element. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because I worry about these things more now as I get older. Also though I am not nearly as cranky as Ove, I am shy and can't do small talk. The end was maybe too contrived but it worked for me. I hope our book sale has lots of extra copies of Fredrik Backman's books so I can try more of them.

And The Door-to-Door Bookstore is now on my book sale shopping list and the wish list, because I definitely want to get a hardcover edition. Someday.