Delving into the rich prose and vivid atmosphere of Emma Cline's The Girls, it was quickly apparent this would be one of the best books of the summer, maybe the year. Since it tells the story of a Manson-esque cult in the 1960s, and I am not one for murders or cults, i went into this one a little unsure. But the reviews were so good and the book was everywhere, so I had to give it a try and I'm so glad I did. The story is told through flashbacks, and while Evie's present day life isn't quite fully fleshed out, the dips in and out of the past provide a grounding structure for the more erratic events of her early adolescence. More than once, you are struck by how young this character is, and how different a time it was. While a 14-year-old hitchhiking and hopping in a strange van seems unthinkable today (at least for a sheltered suburbanite like myself) Cline does an excellent job of rationalizing it and other loathsome life choices in Evie's mind, without dismissing the reader's assumed objections. The disturbing lifestyle of the cult is at once presented as normal and fantastical in Evie's eyes. After all, she doesn't know any better, perhaps this is how all hip, enlightened people live. Yes it dazzles her at every turn, even as the same details that charm Evie nauseate the more knowing reader. It is almost as if Cline manages to do the atmospheric work of a movie soundtrack without the foreboding, stabby music all but screaming "no, no, fun out the front door, not up the stairs!"
In recommending this to a customer, I had some difficulty pinpointing the genre. Definitely coming of age, a bit of a mystery, a bit of a thriller, but we certainly wouldn't shelve it in either of those sections. I decided on literary thriller. And I really did thrill to the pitch perfect descriptions of adolescent insecurity, and how poignantly a young girl can viscerally keen for acceptance. It makes the character relatable even when you're thinking "how could anyone possibly go along with that." Like adult Evie wonders how far things could have gone were the circumstances of the past slightly altered, I wondered if I would really have been any smarter as a naive, underloved 14-year-old.
A truly transporting story. You'll feel the hot sticky summer nights even if you don't get to this one until the winter. Andrea
After 34 years, Chester County Book Company (CCBC) has closed its doors.
“In the first 15 years or so of our history, stores were the only place to buy books,” said CCBC owner Kathy Fortney as she reflected on how the bookselling climate has changed over the intervening decades. “Think about that. And you couldn’t Google anything; you had to buy a book or borrow one from the library.”
Over the years, CCBC has been active in the Shop Small, Shop Local movement, and participated in the fledgling Independent Bookstore Day each April.
For every $100 you spend at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay in the community as opposed to being funneled to corporate centers, according to the non-profit Independent We Stand. Local businesses are better at creating higher-paying jobs for your neighbors, and shopping local also takes less of a toll on the environment.
These are the practical arguments for shopping local, but it’s the community centers that local businesses like bookstores provide that create a fierce loyalty in their customers. As it moved from location to location, CCBC became an institution of the West Chester community.
“When Bob and I first bought Margaret Alburn’s store in the Parkway Center in 1982, it sure didn’t feel like an “institution”. We painted the walls, my brother laid the carpet, we rearranged the fixtures,” Kathy said. “Once we reopened as Chester County Book Company it was such a satisfying feeling of “This is mine”! We began building the inventory to keep up with customer demand. That was the basic philosophy through the next two expansions and 20 years: constantly expanding the selection based on requests from voracious readers. As it became a huge store with music & a restaurant, I was very proud of what we accomplished.”
Three years ago, after a short regrouping period, CCBC reopened with a smaller footprint in its most recent location because of the grassroots effort of local readers to save the store. With the closing of the smaller store this month, Chester County Book Company is proud to recognize and recommend Wellington Square Bookshop as the only place to go for an amazing literary experience.
“Chester County Book Company and Wellington Square Bookshop (WSB) are not simply stores where you buy books. They are not simply retail establishments. They are not (unfortunately) great profit centers,” said Sam Hankin of the Hankin Group, owner of WSB. “They are fairylands, they are libraries, they are universities, they are cultural centers, they are not Barnes and Noble, they are not Amazon. Most importantly they are places to walk into and be happy, a door to a world that is different somehow in an almost mystical way.”
“Mourning the passing of CCBC, I’ve had some time to reflect on how much the shop meant to me and my family,” Hankin said. “A third of a century of bolstering literacy and cultural awareness. You can’t give your life, your time and your experience to a better cause. Thanks Kathy!”
Fortney returns the compliment, as well. “[WSB] is such a wonderful store with a great staff of book lovers. It will now be my bookstore!”
As proud as we are of Kathy's words, all of us are very heartened that Wellington Square Bookshop has the honor this year of being named Best Independent Bookstore by Philadelphia Magazine, Mainline Today, Philly.com and The Daily Local.
We hope to see you at Wellington Square Bookshop soon!
We have a lot of questions about the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. The biggest question mark may be a tie between the Lorelai’s career trajectories and their love lives. But let’s be real. We’re all waiting with fingers poised over keyboards, Goodreads loaded up, waiting to record every book, short story and think piece Rory name checks. The internet is rife with Rory’s reading lists from the past seasons of the show, which were made available worldwide on Netflix July 1. Many of us have Rory’s favorite tomes memorized - who among us hasn’t made a Mencken’s Chrestomathy joke!? But what has Rory been reading in the intervening 10 years? Here are a few suggestions.
Rory loves to sink her teeth into intense, complicated books - and if it’s a series, that just ups the ante. That’s why we think she’d be into these books which IndieBound described thusly: “Unafraid of the big issues death, love, art, fear and yet committed to the intimate details of life as it is lived, My Struggle is an essential work of contemporary literature.” Book Five is expected in the Spring of 2017.
The first look photos of the upcoming Netflix series imply that Rory is spending at least some of her time in the classroom, and she unsurprisingly is discussing Jane Eyre. She’s obviously long been a fan of the classic - she tried to bargain with high-school boyfriend Dean to read the novel back in the original series run. But Rory would never work from memory and would obviously re-read this book with her class. But where does Rory fall on the recent spate of retellings of classic heroin’s tales - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Android Kerenina, and the latest reimagining of Jane Eyre - Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye? Maybe we’ll find out.
We don’t think Rory would be snobbish about YA. She would surely work a few selections from the genre into her reading - particularly to share with possible step-sister April (HAVE LUKE AND LORELAI GOTTEN MARRIED OR WHAT!?). We harbor a secret hope that April will have come out as non-gender-binary or LGBTQ as she grew up, and What We Left Behind would certainly be a book a teen struggling with their gender or sexual identity would gravitate towards.
Hopefully Paris Geller is still in Rory’s life. The two would surely watch each other’s TBR lists on Goodreads. Paris would love this exploration of the universal laws of physics, their limitations, and how those limitations may be broken down. Perhaps she’s researching those laws herself? After all, she once said “I was made to be in a lab or an operating room or a bunker.”
Rory would be all over this book, and perhaps gift it to her half-sister Gigi. If Gigi has moved to Paris full time with her Mom, Rory would want to keep her connected to her feminist American heritage. Rory would obviously also have the Independent Bookstore Day exclusive vinyl companion record. We like to think Independent Bookstore Day would be something of a holiday to Rory, perhaps she even still pulls a shift at Stars Hollow Books with Andrew.
The Dragonfly Inn Connecticut Cookbook by Suki St. James
Fine, we made this one up.
Andrea is new to WSB and joins us from Chester County Book Company. She will be managing our social media and helping us make more of a name in the world.
Ah, summer. The blazing sun, the sand in my mouth, the threat of skin cancer- and even more worrisome, the prospect of what to read with all this free time.
I could go quintessential and tell you to pick up something good-feeling and a tad fluffy, a Jojo Moyes or a Colm Toibin, but sometimes I need a little bite with my summer sugar, ya feel me? I traveled far and wide across the land in search of an elusive idea, a beach read a tad dark, pages that maybe could keep me awake. My prayers were answered. The Book Gods threw me a bone, tossing a copy of Ruth Ware's 'In a Dark, Dark Wood my way.
It's an innocuous little thing, out in softcover and sharing a title with an old children's book. But as my lovely mother tells me when I avoid anything that looks like a vegetable, "don't judge a book by its cover." Like the tale it pens its name from, Ruth Ware's psychological feat is not for the skittish.
Picture this. A flock of passive aggressive ladies, an isolated cabin, a bachelor party designed by Alfred Hitchcock- buckle your seatbelts.
Spoiler alert: this book is the most fun you'll have all summer. And yes, I'm talking to you, mother, who won't read this book out of fear of encountering another wannabeGone Girl.
Which reminds me.
Dear readers of the world,
For the love of all that is holy, stop comparing everything to Gone Girl. Don't judge Ruth Ware's baby by it's back cover, wherein- drumroll please- compare her novel toGone Girl. Can we stop talking about Gone Girl for just a second here, please?
In a Dark, Dark Wood stands on its own two feet. More accurately, it sprints. It's as fun as a trashy romance but suspenseful enough to feel like a hefty Agatha Christie, and who wouldn't swoon at the mere thought of that combination?
Prep yourself for a read so engaging that when Ryan Gosling shows up at your beach house asking if you'd like to walk hand in hand along the sand at dusk, you tell him, "Ryan, shut up, I'm devouring a mystery novel involving a gaggle of complex women, their conflicting desires, and a foreboding gun on the mantel. Like boy, bye."