Tuesday 25 May 2021

Book Review: A Bookshop in Algiers by Kaouther Adimi

Title: A Bookshop in Algiers
Author: Kaouther Adimi
Publisher: Serpent's Tail
Publication Date: 20 May 2021 (2017)
eBook - PDF
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

'If you're in a bookshop browsing, then A Bookshop In Algiers is for you, by definition. A beautiful little novel about books, history, ambition and the importance of literature to everyone, especially people who are trying to find a voice.' Nick Hornby

In 1936, a young dreamer named Edmond Charlot opened a modest bookshop in Algiers. Once the heart of Algerian cultural life, where Camus launched his first book and the Free French printed propaganda during the war, Charlot's beloved bookshop has been closed for decades, living on as a government lending library. Now it is to be shuttered forever. But as a young man named Ryad empties it of its books, he begins to understand that a bookshop can be much more than just a shop that sells books. A Bookshop in Algiers charts the changing fortunes of Charlot's bookshop through the political drama of Algeria's turbulent twentieth century of war, revolution and independence. It is a moving celebration of books, bookshops and of those who dare to dream. 


A Bookshop in Algiers is a quiet, short, yet thoughtful work that pays homage not only to Edmond Charlot but to bookstores and publishing in general. Set against the backdrop of World War II and growing political unrest, it tells the history of both a man and a country, with the tiny bookstore as the pivotal point. The prose is simple but compelling, and I enjoyed the way the narrative switched perspectives, taking us back and forth in time. In particular, Charlot's diary worked well as a way to quickly summarise key events taking place both in Charlot's personal sphere and in the world at large. Considering it is such a short piece (160 pages on my e-reader, which I read in a single sitting), it packs a lot in, including a commentary on French involvement in Algiers and the country's eventual path to revolution, the role of printing in WWII, the lives of Charlot (and others like Camus). As such, this book will appeal to general readers of historical fiction as well as those who love to read about books and publishing. For me, the only negative point was Ryad, who I struggled to engage with as a character. However, the other aspects of the book more than made up for that, so overall I am giving it four stars.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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