This is one of those books, one of those reading experiences, that I wanted to curl up in and live in. I didn’t think Abbi Waxman could top The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, but with Adult Assembly Required she returns to Larchmont and her quirkily endearing cast of characters and just completely melted my heart. We meet Laura in the opening pages, a recent transplant to L.A. for grad school. After an unsuccessful job interview, an apartment fire, and a freak rainstorm, she dazedly wanders into Knight’s Books in Larchmont, and is immediately taken in hand by Liz, Polly and Nina. Between the three of them, they dry her off, offer her fresh clothes and, in Polly’s case, a place to live. The boarding house Polly takes her to is the kind of place we all wish we could land when life is being unkind. A lovely room for affordable rent (doesn’t that sound like a dream these days?) in a beautiful home in a gorgeous neighborhood with a spectacular garden, good food, and good-hearted (and one particularly handsome) residents. Honestly, it’s the LA equivalent to Penelope’s Gloucestershire cottage in The Shell Seekers.
We all have those story elements that inevitably lure us into picking up a book. Maybe it’s mountain climbing thrillers or anything with “Paris” in the title. Two things that guarantee I will at least read the flap copy are bookstores and London. Bookstores in London? At pretty much any time period? Yes. Natalie Jenner’s new release, Bloomsbury Girls, is set in a venerable London bookstore in 1950 and I immediately sank into the rhythms of the inner workings of a bookstore with a sense of wry recognition. Following up her bestseller, The Jane Austen Society, Jenner brings Evie Stone to the forefront after her labors to catalog the vast library at Chawton Great House. It’s post-war Britain, Evie has finished at Cambridge and finds herself in need of a job. Using her connections after an academic disappointment, she secures a job at Bloomsbury Books in the heart of London.
There’s a family joke regarding me and my cousin. We didn’t live in the same state and when we did get a chance to spend time together, usually at our grandparents, usually at the tail end of summer, our idea of quality time was reading different books next to each other. All the adults thought it was perplexing/hilarious. We never saw each other and now we were too into our respective books to even interact? What I remember, what they didn’t see, were the moments when we’d pause and read a humorous passage out loud, share a moment of mutual appreciation for the author’s wit or clever turn of phrase. These days, when I run across a passage in my current book that I’m pretty sure she’ll find amusing, I text her a picture. She responds accordingly. And I still feel like we are sharing an experience. So when I read The Verifiers and came across multiple quotable moments to text her, I knew I had stumbled onto a good read.
The best I can do is slouch in a corner rereading The Bostonians on my phone so I won’t start telling various member of my family to just shut up already. Henry James is about the only author I can bear right now. I could do with some eloquent introspection and regret, and he’s safely ensconced in the pre-Internet age. Also, his female protagonists’ subpar decision-making skills are really resonating with me. (208)
But let’s talk about the book.