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The Bookshop, a movie of bookselling drama


The Bookshop, a movie adapted from Penelope Fitzgerald’s 1978 Booker shortlisted novel of the same name, has finally opened in the US and Canada.

Directed Spaniard Isabel Coixet, the film stars Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Bill Nighy.  The story is set in the late 1950s in a small town in Suffolk in the UK as Florence Green (Mortimer’s character), a widow, attempts to open a bookshop. Small town politics and prejudices, and the Lolita rumpus are thrown in for good measure.

The filmmakers needed around 250 lookalike first edition copies of Lolita, which posed a problem for Coixet, according to an interview with the New York Post.

“It took us about a year to get all those books,” the filmmaker said, adding that she and production designer Llorenç Miquel settled on a mixture of actual vintage tomes and convincing reproductions of the real thing. “It was really important for me to have details that really belonged to the moment of the film — from the food, to the landscapes, to, of course, the books.

Aside from “Lolita,” Fitzgerald’s tale cites few other real titles, which meant that Coixet could stock Florence’s fictional shop with some of her favorite volumes, including 1929’s A High Wind in Jamaica, by Richard Hughes, and Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.”

“Many of them actually come from my own library,” says Coixet, an avid vintage-book collector. One such gem? “The Jessie H. Bancroft book of physical exercise,” she says, referring to the 1940s edition of an early 20th-century manual that one of the townsfolk is seen ogling at the shop.

Bill Nighy’s character, Edmund Brundish, is an eccentric avid reader, who devours the classics until Mortimer introduces him to a new generation of literature through Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

The book, although well received in the late 1970s, is mostly forgotten. Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000) wrote nine novels, a collection of short stories and a biography of the artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones. Fitzgerald’s literary career only began in 1975, when she was 58. She had a rather up and down life, being homeless at one time, teaching at the famed Italia Conti drama academy, and working in a bookshop in Suffolk.

She won the Booker Prize in 1979 with a novel called Offshore. It’s all about living on boats in Battersea, which Fitzgerald did, although she lost many of her belongings and papers when her houseboat sank. It displays an eccentric community caught between the land and the water

Find copies of The Bookshop

Nighy plays a bibliophile who comes to the aid of The Bookshop’s owner

The decision to stock Lolita ruffles feathers in small-town Suffolk

Emily Mortimer plays a widow with a taste for Silas Marner

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