Robert Hillman comes to the blog today with a lovely story of love, loss, acceptance and hope all set on a small Australian sheep farm in
The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted
Told in three major points of view with an occasional inset from a fourth, this is a story that needs to quietly grow on you, both in style and content with Tom being the major cog around which all action circles. Tom is a sheep farmer, his sheep station being something he inherited rather than desired – an ability to turn his hand to near everything and a preference for solitude and routine have him content a few hours outside of Melbourne by bus. A bit awkward socially, Tom never thought himself interesting to women, so when Trudy agreed to marry him he was over the moon. But, being who he is an a person who, while not exactly ‘content’ isn’t apt to over-think isn’t exactly what Trudy expected, and she’s soon off on the bus to another life. While Tom isn’t outwardly demonstrative or particularly prone to emotional outbursts, Trudy hurt him, and he’s spent much of his time when she left compiling a list of ‘what to do’ when (or if) she returned. Retuned she did, pregnant by another man, and Tom, also being one who isn’t going to hold a grudge (or really even get angry) is in love with the child for the five years he had them back. Then, Trudy is off again with the child – joining a cult-like religious camp and breaking Tom’s heart.
Hannah is a new arrival in the little town near Tom’s place: bold, brash, Jewish and a bit of a rebel, she is a twice widowed survivor of Auschwitz, has lost one child, and is determined to make a bookshop that will enlighten, expose and endear the people in this little town to literary greats and not-so, forevermore. Hannah is, understandably, a touch mad – emotional, erratic, and wholly unfamiliar to these very Australian folks. Hannah is intriguing to Tom as he is to her. It is his undeniable steadiness and calmness that seems to center her, as much as she will be. Soon, with Trudy and Tom officially ‘done’, the connection between Hannah and Tom is the body of the story – told in alternating perspectives with plenty of perspective in Hannah’s voice from both present and her time in the camp. Tom is always sort of bemused by her, while finding her addictive and intriguing.
Hillman does so much with so very little in this story: it is a true play of relationships, dysfunction, and daily life from different viewpoints – the mundanities and routines, the little upsets that flare into more, the words and acts in haste that have long-lasting consequences. From Tom’s worries of inadequacies, to Hannah’s determination to sell at least 25,000 books – replacing those ‘non-German’ tomes the Nazis burned in Berlin in 1933, her fears of loss and push-pull reactions that frustrate and confuse Tom. With the return of Peter to live with Tom and Hannah, and the cleverly portrayed choices made, not to mention the clear placement of Tom’s farm in the area, with threats from the river and the goldmine nearby – the story has several layers that slowly unfurl and build on one another to complete the picture. It’s not an easy title to explain just WHY I liked it so much, particularly as it took a couple of chapters to adapt to both the writing style and the characters – but once I did I was hooked.
Title: The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted
Author: Robert Hillman
Genre: Antipodes, European History, Friendship, Historic Elements, Historical Fiction, Humor elements, Multi-Cultural, Post World War II, Post-Holocaust, Romantic Elements, Setting: Australia, Small Town, Vietnam War Era
Published by: Putnam Adult
Published on: 9 April, 2019
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 26 minutes
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Can one unlikely bookshop heal two broken souls?
It is 1968 in rural Australia and lonely Tom Hope can’t make heads or tails of Hannah Babel. Newly arrived from Hungary, Hannah is unlike anyone he’s ever met–she’s passionate, brilliant, and fiercely determined to open sleepy Hometown’s first bookshop.
Despite the fact that Tom has only read only one book in his life, when Hannah hires him to install shelving for the shop, the two discover an astonishing spark. Recently abandoned by an unfaithful wife–and still missing her sweet son, Peter–Tom dares to believe that he might make Hannah happy. But Hannah is a haunted woman. Twenty-four years earlier, she had been marched to the gates of Auschwitz.
Perfect for fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and The Light Between Oceans, The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted cherishes the power of love, literature, and forgiveness to transform our lives, and–if we dare allow them–to mend our broken hearts.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: