Inspiring Older Readers

posted on 31 Jul 2015

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend  by Katerina Bivald

I haven't really looked but I'm willing to place a sizeable bet that reviews of this 'international best seller' will include phrases like 'charming depiction of small town life', ' a romantic, feel-good read' etc etc. This is not the sort of reading I would normally be attracted to but I have a great weakness when it comes to any books about books or bookshops - and I just couldn't resist having a go at this.

I guess it is all those warm and fuzzy things that the reviews will tell you - optimistic and ultimately everyone lives happily ever after. And that's the way to think of this book - it's essentially a simple fairy story.Sara is the mousey heroine of the story who makes the life-changing trip from Sweden to Broken Wheel USA on the strength of her bookish pen-friendship with Amy. Just one problem. Amy is elderly and dies before Sara arrives for her two month stay.

Broken Wheel is the archetypal one-horse town - only the horse bolted some time ago leaving a sundry collection of dried-out odd-balls and malcontents behind. Slowly Sara wins them over, chiefly by deciding the town needs its own bookshop - which she sets up using Amy's old store premises and her now redundant library.

It has elements of Joanne Harris's Chocolat about it and the slow thawing of the locals is more than a little unbelievable - as is their initial seemingly unbroken philistinism and general incomprehension of the word 'book'. You've guessed it though - it all ends up well. The town is regenerated, the people grow and Sara gets to stay rather than return to her icy life in Sweden. Hmmm.

What I disliked most was the completely implausible romance element - actually all the romance in the book is implausible but the relationships beween Tom, a sullen local hunk, and Sara is really jarring. It is completely impossible to suspend disbelief enough to justify this relationship but it's even more impossible to accept the relationship between the shy bi-sexual man and the older fundamentalist Christian women - that is frankly absurd.

I know I'm not the target audience for this book and my review was always likely to be jaundiced. I also know its a fairy story and the usual rules don't apply. I don't want my money back but I wouldn't mind having the time I spent reading it to use again on something more substantial.


Terry Potter      July 2015