Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley


I know I'm catching the tail end, but I did want to write a quick post about the only novella I was able to manage this month for the August Art of the Novella Challenge.  I think I ended up checking five different novellas out of the library, but I was only able to finish one.  But it was delightful!  If you're looking for a quick, fun read, this is one I'd highly recommend.  It's a book about book lovers, and it's just 124 pages!

Published in 1917, Parnassus on Wheels is the prequel to Christopher Morley's The Haunted Bookshop.  It's the story of Helen McGill, a 39-year-old spinster living with her brother on a farm in upstate New York.  Her brother, Andrew McGill, is a well-regarded writer who purchased the farm after his business failed.  Their departure to rural life inspired Andrew to write several popular books on the glories of country living and simpler times, etc, etc.  However, now that Andrew is A Famous Novelist, he tends to wander off in search of new material, leaving her to carry on all the everyday work.

One day, a funny little man with a traveling caravan approaches the farm while Andrew is out.  He is Roger Mifflin, the owner of a traveling bookshop, the eponymous Parnassus on Wheels, and he's ready to settle down.  Roger thinks that Andrew is the perfect person to buy Parnassus lock, stock and barrel, but Helen has had enough.  She knows that Andrew will buy the caravan and leave her again, carrying on all the responsibilities of the farm and the house while he's off gallivanting.  She decides it's time she had her own adventures.  Much to her brother's chagrin, she buys Parnassus for herself and takes off to make her fortune and spread the gospels of good literature to the masses.

This is a really fun book.  Helen is a spunky heroine, Roger is quirky and charming, and hilarity ensues. Plus, there's lots of discussion and descriptions about great books.  How could a bibliophile like myself not fall for a book with this quote:

"Lord!" he said, "when you sell a man a book you don't sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue -- you sell him a whole new life.  Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night -- there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean!"

What is not to love?  I finished the book in practically one sitting, and now I'm waiting for the sequel, The Haunted Bookshop, to arrive at my library branch.  

10 comments:

  1. This sounds like something I would enjoy! - with a scone and cup of tea? :)

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  2. Oh, now I need to go find a copy! That sounds lovely :-)

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  3. I tried to listen to the librivox recording of The Haunted Bookshelf about four years ago, but the reader was awful, I wasn't yet a fan of audiobooks, and I didn't know how to listen to it on double speed yet. Not sure i could, actually, since it was an old ipod. Anyway, point is the book seemed really interesting, but I never made it through. I'm looking forward to what you have to say about it, just in case I might save it as a RIP selectoin for next year!

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  4. Audrey -- it was a charming read. It's nice and light without being too fluffy, so it would be a great break from a heavy book.

    MJ -- I really enjoyed it! It was a nice break from Game of Thrones, totally different.

    Amanda -- I'll probably read The Haunted Bookshop for RIP. I've never tried librivox -- is that the one with all volunteer readers?

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  5. This sounds great - I'll definitely look for it.

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  6. What fun! This book sounds like my cup of tea! Thanks!

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  7. I'm adding this to my novella wish list right now!

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  8. Spinsters and traveling bookshops? I'm there!

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  9. I loved this one too! I also read Austen's Lady Susan, but didn't get the review up for the Challenge -- but this was definitely my favorite of the two.

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  10. I downloaded this when I first got my Nook, but I still haven't read it! Sounds like I have a reat waiting for me. :D

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