I enjoyed this book (so did everyone at book club). This is the stuff on the back …
Â At eighteen, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little more than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city she’s read so much about. The moment she steps into the Arcade bookstore, she knows she has found a home.
The gruff owner, Mr. Pike, gives her a job sorting through huge piles of books and helping the rest of the staffÂ – Â a group as odd and idiosyncratic as the characters in a Dickens novel. There’s Pearl, the loving, motherly transsexual who runs the cash register; Oscar, who shares his extensive, eclectic knowledge with Rosemary, but furiously rejects her attempts at a more personal relationship; and Arthur Pick, who supervises the art section and demonstrates a particular interest in photography books featuring naked men. The store manager Walter Geist is an albino, a lonely figure even within the world of the Arcade. When Walter’s eyesight begins to fail, Rosemary becomes his assistant. And so it is Rosemary who first reads the letter from someone seeking to ‘place’ a lost manuscript by Herman Melville. Mentioned in Melville’s personal correspondence but never published, the work is of inestimable value, and proof of its existence brings the simmering ambitions and rivalries of the Arcade staff to a boiling point, and sets Rosemary on her own journal of self-discovery.
This novel seemed to be a yearning for impossible things – Lillian wanting to find her son, Rosemary wanting Oscar, Walter wanting Rosemary, all the bookshop patrons wanting undiscovered first editions etc.
It was also a bit of quest novel with Rosemary in the position of the knight and the relationship with Oscar as the holy grail. Ultimately, of course, she finds a bit of inner knowledge.
This book is definitely worth a read.