I read Parnassus on Wheels
by Morley a couple of years ago and finally got around to reading this sequel. Parnassus was a quaint story of a woman who buys a travelling bookstore, Helen McGill and who ends up settling down with another booklover, Roger Mifflin. In Haunted Bookshop
, the Mifflins are very settled into their used bookstore in Brooklyn just after the end of WWI (the book was originally published in 1919). Roger is a little pretentious as he expounds the benefits of really good books and derides some of the current novels of the time written by Harold Bell Wright (one of my father's favorite authors) or the Tarzan
novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He much prefers the classics written by Samuel Butler, Robert Louis Stevenson, Emerson, or Walt Whitman and cannot understand how people prefer the ready romances of the day. I guess this could be like comparing James Patterson to John Irving or T.C. Boyle by today's standards (I'm certainly guilty of consuming the popular novels of today like Patterson!). In fact, Roger makes a point that WWI could have been avoided if people would have read Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts
, a book about the Napoleonic Wars. I found all the talk of books, the descriptions of Brooklyn at the time, and the atmosphere within the bookshop to be a delight. I didn't really agree with his smoking policy, however - Please smoke but don't drop the ashes
! Not a very good mix with books in my opinion! The Mifflin's dog even had it's sleeping compartment made to look like a bookshop.
The bookshop is not really haunted, no trace of ghosts in the story; rather it is haunted by the ghosts of great literature. The story also details an adventure of Miss Titania Chapman, who has agreed to work in the shop, and a young advertising man named Aubrey Gilbert. Aubrey discovers a plot related to the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of a copy of Thomas Carlyle's Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell
which happens to be one of President Wilson's favorite books. Turns out there is a plot brewing by some German-Americans who still think the war hasn't ended. Overall, I thought this was a good followup to Parnassus but not quite as enjoyable. I would recommend it to any booklover or someone interested in early 20th century New York.