11 November 2013

Parnassus on Wheels

Summary from Goodreads:
I imagined him in his beloved Brooklyn, strolling in Prospect Park and preaching to chance comers about his gospel of good books.

"When you sell a man a book," says Roger Mifflin, the sprite-like book peddler at the center of this classic novella, "you don't sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue—you sell him a whole new life." In this beguiling but little-known prequel to Christopher Morley's beloved Haunted Bookshop, the "whole new life" that the traveling bookman delivers to Helen McGill, the narrator of Parnassus on Wheels, provides the romantic comedy that drives this charming love letter to a life in books.

I recently purchased a subscription to Melville House's Art of the Novella series and one of the first books I received was Christopher Morley's The Haunted Bookshop.  I was going to read it right away but then I read the flap copy and it mentioned Parnassus on Wheels...oops!  Maybe I should read that first.

Well, I didn't have one on hand (obviously) but I had also just started subscribing to Oyster, a subscription-style lending library for ebooks.  It has a beautiful iOS app UI and a huge selection of backlist from HarperCollins, HMH MacMillan, and, you guessed it, Melville House.  A quick search brought up Parnassus on Wheels, with its accompanying information tidbits, so I settled in for a quick read.

Parnassus on Wheels is narrated by Helen McGill.  She keeps house for her brother Andrew on their family's farm and, well, she's beginning to get a tiny bit dissatisfied.  One day Roger Mifflin, having heard that Andrew is an author, shows up to sell him the "Parnassus on Wheels" - a horse-drawn caravan-cum-travelling-bookstore - because he wants to retire.  Helen seizes the opportunity and buys the Parnassus herself, determined to have a little adventure before she ages from middle-age to old-age.  Off she goes, after a bit of coaching by Roger, and certainly does have an adventure!  In the end, Helen and Roger fall in love - which is made all the better because, to mis-paraphrase Jane Austen, neither would have ever expected to play the part of romantic hero or heroine.

Throughout, Roger keeps expounding on his love of books and why books and reading are essential to a happy, well-rounded life.  His enthusiasm is infectious.  Parnassus on Wheels is a lovely little book for booklovers of all stripes.  Highly recommended for an evening with a blanket, some tea, and a cat or dog.

Dear FTC: I read this book on my Oyster app.

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