The Peacock Emporium / JoJo Moyes
London: Hodder & Stoughton, c2008.
Sometimes you're just in the mood for a relaxing, light read. I picked up this novel to read in my lunch breaks but it wasn't as light as I'd anticipated -- domestic violence, abandonment, divorce, death, estrangement -- it was all there.
I did finish it, and perhaps reading it bit by bit helped me to do so. I could take a break from the depressive pall the main character Suzanna Peacock cast over everything she did.
So what's the story? I picked this up because it was ostensibly about Suzanna's Emporium, the curiosity shop she opens to stave off boredom when she and her husband Neil return to her English hometown, having to leave London to economize. Though if her idea of economizing is opening a shop and buying lovely stock that she doesn't really sell much of, sign me up for that budget!
Suzanna is fairly unhappy; she and her husband are distant from one another, she doesn't get along with her family too well (her mother abandoned them when she was an infant; Suzanna was always told her mother had died but....surprise, she didn't!), and she's not very good at shopkeeping, what with being standoffish and private and all. But when she hires local girl Jessie to be her clerk, Jessie's sunny extroverted personality and business acumen make the shop fairly successful. But disaster lurks ahead....
Meanwhile, in another story line, Alejandro, from South America, has come to England to intern as a midwife. He and Suzanna hit it off, rather well. He also has to decide what he wants from his life -- will he change direction, stay in England, or go home?
Moyes also includes the back stories for Alejandro's family, for Suzanna's parents (all 3), for Jessie, and quite a lot about the other local shopkeepers. It felt at times like a bit too much of a jumble. I didn't feel that the characters rose above middling interest - they were not complex enough. Suzanna was so miserable for so long it was kind of tough to keep reading about her. I was quite honestly much more interested in the early chapter telling the story of her mother, her father, and the young girl who became her stepmother -- I would have liked to read that story instead.
So while I enjoyed parts of this, and liked the descriptions of all the shops (a favourite fictional subject), I did find it a bit disjointed, and the requisite happy ending was not 100% believable. I've really enjoyed some of JoJo Moyes' books, but this one was just okay. It's not at the level of her more recent novels, though it is still better than others I've read in this genre!
A middling read all in all. Recommended for fans of Moyes who want to read all her books.