Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley, was one of the most delightful novels I’ve read, so I had high hopes for the follow-up, The Haunted Bookshop, but it failed to live up to expectations, and I was really disappointed.
|Since this is a post about a book about a second-hand bookshop,
here is a picture of me in one of my favourite second-hand bookshops,
G&J Chesters, at Polesworth.
In this book (downloaded free from Project Gutenberg, which is a wonderful resource) Roger Mifflin and Helen have settled down to married life in a second-hand bookshop which seem to be open almost all hours. They live ‘above the shop’ and have just taken on an assistant – the beautiful Titania Chapman, daughter of a millionaire businessman and booklover who wants her to learn a proper job.
At this point advertising whizzkid Aubrey Gilbert appears on the scene and, very predictably, falls in love with Titania. Here the story starts to get complicated: there’s a missing book (Carlyle’s Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, in case you’re interested), which mysteriously turns up rebound; a sinister chemist, and a chef who is obviously not what he seems.
Aubrey (is anyone still called Aubrey I wonder? I shouldn’t think many people were named Aubrey even in 1919 when this was written) determined to unravel the puzzle and protect Titania, he becomes embroiled in chases and fights as he is pursued and attacked by unknown villains. At one stage he even suspects Roger of being involved. There’s a bomb, an explosion, and a German plot to assassinate the American president, but eventually the villainous spies get their come-uppance, and everyone else, presumably, gets to live happily ever after.
If it all sounds a bit far-fetched, that’s because it is.
And Roger’s lovely comments about books, which were peppered throughout Parnassus on Wheels, have become much lengthier discourses, often with other bibliophiles, and seem much more forced. So there we are: an interesting read, but not one I would wish to repeat.