Monday, February 29, 2016

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams - Jenny Colgan

From the back of the book:

Were you a sherbet lemon or chocolate lime fan? Penny chews or hard-boiled sweeties? The jangle of your pocket money...the rustle of the pink and green striped paper bag...

Rosie Hopkins thinks leaving her busy London life, her boyfriend Gerard, to sort out her elderly Aunt Lilian's sweetshop in a small country village is going to be dull. Boy, is she wrong.

Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton's sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. As she struggles with the idea that it might finally be time to settle up, she also wrestles with the secret hidden behind the jars of beautifully coloured sweets.

When we first get acquainted with Rosie, she is anxiously hurtling along the English countryside in a "single-decker green bus" with a taciturn driver. She is on her way to Lipton in Derbyshire (at the behest of her mother Angie) to take care of her ageing great-aunt Lilian and "settle up" the sweetshop Lilian has run in the village since the war. 

Rosie, an auxiliary nurse, formerly of London, has left behind her boyfriend Gerard, their shared flat and growing sense of dissatisfaction with her lot in life. Lilian infirm and in her mid-eighties needs someone to sort out her affairs and rescue the now derelict sweetshop. Will Rosie succeed in refurbishing her life along with the shop? What secrets, what long forgotten dreams does Lilian still hold in her heart?

Lipton is peppered with interesting characters; the young, gay doctor Moray, the sullen Mrs. Isitt of the "farm yonder" and her silently cheerful husband. There's the roughly handsome farmhand Jake and the ghastly village dentist; the Darcy-like Stephen Lakeman with his wounded leg and traumatic past and his mother Hetty, the snobbish Lady of the Manor, stereotypically aristocratic with her drafty mansion and ancient clothes. There's Rosie's friend, the recently divorced Tina with her ready knack for business and Anton, the fattest man in the village with his enormous love for sweeties. For me though, the two characters that really sparkled and made this book quietly satisfying are Edison, the knock-kneed seven year old with his big "vocablary" and unique purview of life and Lilian Hopkins, the spirited octogenarian desperately trying to hold onto her way of life and her dignity in a changing world.               

Rosie's and Lilian's stories are interwoven with skill. And though it took me a while to warm up to Rosie and I left the book not feeling quite so convinced about her new boyfriend Stephen, I fell in love with the passages about Lilian's girlhood. The description of a small village in wartime England is very evocative and always like a prima donna retaining centre stage throughout the story: Hopkins's Sweet and Confectionary Shop.

Life, love and loss in toffee jars. Rows and rows of brightly coloured sweets, each one enticing us to take another trip down Lilian's story or give Rosie one more nudge towards happiness.

It's a sweet book; while parts of the plot line left me feeling a bit incomplete, the writing is more than satisfactory and while not brilliant, it is comforting in its love story of an acid-tongued girl and a boy with nut brown hair who had eyes only for her.

Over all, it is one of Jenny Colgan's better and more enjoyable reads

1 comment:

Avinash S Bajaj said...

Greattt to have you writing again :)
Sounds like a great book. I am craving for sweets now :)