BOOK CLUB: The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street

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The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street by Australian author Marlish Glorie is a heart-warming, contemporary women’s novel embarking on a transformational journey.

Helen Budd-Doyle is a woman who is ready to reclaim her life. Trapped for twenty-eight years in a marriage living with a hoarder, she has had enough. Enough to the point she gets up at 5am and chops her bed to smithereens and sets it alight. As she watches it burn, she feels the nightmares of the past incinerate, but never the grief of losing her firstborn, Leif.

Arnold Budd-Doyle is a self-employed gardener. He hates his job and despises his clients – his true love is searching the tips for anything valuable and accepting his clients’ cast-offs to add to his collection. He knows Helen isn’t impressed with all he has accumulated, but he wants more out of life than just mowing lawns.

Not wanting to return home, Helen’s friend and neighbour Astrid and her husband Hendel invite her to stay. When she knew Arnold would be at work, she packed a bag and left him a note “I have gone for good. Living with Astrid.”

If there was one thing Helen loved in life, it was books. She was an addict and would source them from everywhere. When an unexpected windfall lands in her lap and an offer to buy a dilapidated second-hand bookstore from a man in a pub arises her dreams have come true, and she grabs the opportunity. 

Unexpectedly, Helen and Arnold’s two sons Gabriel and Vivian return home with their own issues. They try to assist their parents, but sibling rivalry occurs, and it seems they are creating more chaos than helping. Has Helen made the right decision?

The narrative style is liberating, entertaining, and rejuvenating to engage readers and make them feel like part of the story. I loved the well-crafted, small-town feel with characters who you’ll miss long after you have put the book down. So many layers, some surprises, twists and turns, filled with humour, wit, and laugh-out-loud moments while exploring the ups and downs of marriage and family life. 

Glorie has created a joyous, and incredibly relatable protagonist in Helen, she felt like a friend I had known all my life; charismatic, caring, a little bit problematic, yet so very lovable. It was great to see her evolve and become stronger, you wish nothing but the best for her or at the very least some resolution and contentment. 

I adored the supporting cast of characters. I was pulled into their quirky lives and resonated with the complex interweaving of their relationships. The description of the bookstore had me picturing every scene in vivid detail. The author masterfully utilized the craft of showing, not telling.

This novel offers hope and inspiration, the sense of accomplishment in overcoming a difficult situation is genuinely profound. As demonstrated throughout the book, our courage and actions can shape the outcomes we desire in life. 

The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street is a breath of fresh air and credit goes to Marlish Glorie. I highly recommend it.

Thank you, Beauty and Lace and Fremantle Press for the opportunity to read and review.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street by Marlish Glorie. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

5 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street

  1. This is one of those must-read books that makes you want to find out what is going to happen next and of course how it is going to end. I strongly urge other bookworms to read this book to read for something different.
    Meet Helen – suffering through years of her husband’s hoarding and being ‘haunted’ when she sleeps in her bed – previously owned by someone else and a part of her husband’s hoard she feels as though she is being haunted and can’t sleep. She has finally reached boiling point and destroys the bed setting in on fire and leaves her husband. Moving in with her neighbour she finds herself being gifted a large sum of money which results in her buying a secondhand bookstore which she renovates and opens. Her 2 adult sons are facing problems and unexpectedly move home. Helen meets several quirky characters through her bookstore and many relationships are put to the test. Despite all these bumps in the road she manages to write her own happy ending.
    I really look forward to reading more of Marlish Glorie’s work.
    Thanks to Beauty & Lace bookclub and Freemantle Press for my copy of The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street.

  2. I absolutely loved this book, hooked from the surprise beginning. Helen, rather fed up with her hoarder husband, chops her bed up (which her husband dragged home at some stage) and burns it on the lawn, to her own surprise as well as her neighbour Astrid, who looks on at the burning with great interest then invites her in for some cocoa and a chat, then invites her to move in, then unexpectedly gifts her an enormous sum of money to make a new start. It’s a marvellously quirky start to a terrific book, full of wit and unexpected twists and turns. When her two adult sons turn up out of the blue, both at a crossroads of life and not coping well themselves, Helen impulsively decides to buy a bookshop and enlists their help. I found one of the funniest things about the bookshop was that Helen was a little bit of a book snob. She thought everyone should be reading worthwhile classics, not ‘rubbish’ books like Westerns, crime, romance and such, and let’s not even begin to talk about fantasy or sci-fi. Her attitude to the customers who want those sorts of books is rather dreadful to start with. And the customers! Booksellers will recognise some of the ‘types’, but the author has had fun with a whole heap of unusual book buyers. The story’s not just about books, of course. It’s about a family who’s had tremendous struggles, and how the bed burning and Helen moving out is the catalyst for them all to rethink their lives. It’s wonderful, actually, very endearing to read and full of humour and heart. I do recommend it!

    Thanks so much to Beauty & Lace Bookclub and Fremantle Press for the review copy.

  3. This is a fairly uneven novel, and in the end I found it rather emotionally arid, with a rushed ending which tried to pack too much in without laying groundwork earlier in the novel. Although it has strengths, I found them obscured by the weaknesses.

    Helen’s marriage has been in trouble for at least twenty years. The root cause can be traced back to the loss of a child. Helen and Arnold (her husband) dealt with their loss in very different ways. Helen understands what’s going on in Arnold’s head, but she can’t live with it any more. After nearly thirty years, she snaps.

    Flailing about for what to do next, Helen buys a near derelict second hand bookshop, with plans to turn it into a thriving business. Unfortunately, she hadn’t foreseen the extra-ordinary range of problems life is going to offer her in the next few months.

    The novel does have some real strengths. I liked the writing style. The observational, wry tone works well, and there are some occasional wonderful turns of phrase. The plot is believable enough, and the actions of the characters credible and convincing.

    The biggest failing for me was the lack of emotional engagement. Early on, the emotions depicted are believable and draw you into the character’s lives. However, for me there was something lacking: that indefinable something that makes you feel their emotions. I felt a little too much as though I was observing, not feeling.

    This is compounded by the sheer number of characters Glorie tries to get us emotionally involved with. She handles Helen and Art quite well, but by the time she’s added their two sons, the neighbour couple, Ella the dentist, and assorted friends… well, although I found the descriptions of their emotions believable and each character interesting, there just wasn’t quite enough for me to feel for them.

    As a result, I found it a bit problematic how well everything was rounded off at the end of the novel. Every character has a nice neat ending. I know a lot of readers appreciate this, but it felt kinda rushed and hard to believe that everyone could come to a credible resolution of major problems at the same time.

    If you read this uncritically, it’s a pleasant family drama. It’s well written, easy to read and with flashes of really good writing. Events flow plausibly and it’s easy to keep track of the characters. Plenty of readers will find that this offers enough to meet their needs.

    But for me, it fell a little short of what I expected.

  4. You’ve heard of the phrase “burning your bridges’ well this novel opens with Helen, the main character, literally burning her bed. She doesn’t sleep well and when she does, has nightmares. Helen’s marriage has been failing for many years since the death of their son Leif. Her husband has become a hoarder and the house is overrun with stuff. Helen can no longer take it and leaves to stay with her neighbour and friend Astrid.
    All the main characters in this novel are struggling with different problems, Helen’s two sons, still grieving the loss of their brother, Astrid terribly sad that she hasn’t had children and disconnected from her husband, Arnold (Helen’s hoarder husband) also grieving. While Helen is living with Astrid and her husband Helen’s sons return. Gabriel moves in with his Dad and tempts Arnold to clear the rubbish by pretending he is about to become a grandfather. Vivian stays with Helen at Astrid’s and begins a relationship with his dentist who coincidentally is the women that Gabriel is pretending is his pregnant girlfriend.
    Astrid is a gambler and at one stage won a lot of money, she insists on giving it to Helen so she can start a new life. Helen purchases a very rundown second-hand bookshop from an almost bankrupt drunk. The bookshop includes living accommodation and after renovations Helen and Vivian move in. Running the bookshop isn’t as easy at Helen thinks it will be. She is a bit of a book snob and can not understand the interest in the popular genres. Along the way she meets some interesting characters and takes a few of them in to live above the bookshop with herself and Vivian.
    This is a story of grief and how it affects people so differently, of different types of depression, of families and friends losing each other and hopefully reconnecting. At times I found some of the characters really annoying and the hoarding sent shivers down my spine having had a family member go through this. Looking back at the novel I did enjoy it but found the end a little bit rushed, I’m not sure in the real-world things change that easily.

  5. I quite enjoyed this quirky and poignant story about the messiness that is family. Marlish Glorie’s writing is witty and candid. I felt this story was a bit of a tragi-comedy. It is a story of love, loss and grief, of second chances and doing the best you can. I loved the finely nuanced characters all inexplicably tied to each other. Funny at times and at other times quite profound. The Book Shop on Jacaranda Street may not be to everyone’s liking, but I loved it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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