Jenny Colgan is Scotland’s queen of romantic comedy novels – after all, you don’t become a multiple best-selling author without a degree of talent.
What she possesses is a skill to create real people, and place them in situations which we all know and recognise.
For The Bookshop on the Shore, we meet London-based single mother Zoe, who is struggling to live in the capital with her son, Hari,
who never speaks. Hari’s father, Jaz, is a wannabe DJ who is too busy trying to be cool – he calls his troubled son ‘Bro’ – to be a useful role-model.
Mother and son opt for a massive change in their lives, as Zoe moves to Scotland after her landlord raises the rent on her flat, and she swaps the big smoke for a small village in the Highlands.
Colgan perfectly captures that sense of isolation, of living in a big city, being surrounded by millions of people, yet feeling so utterly bereft of company and alone. The loneliness of crowds is, we conclude, the most miserable affliction.
One area in which Colgan has always shown a deftness and skill is in quickly creating three-dimensional characters in a space of a few chapters. These are people we quickly begin to care about, whether they are down on her luck Zoe as she tries to turn her life around, little Hari whose selected mutism automatically engenders affection, or Ramsay Urquart, the moody bookseller with whom Zoe finds herself working.
And, this being a Jenny Colgan book, there has to be a romance on the cards between two unlikely potential lovers.
There is inevitably a degree of semi-autobiographical writing involved, as Colgan herself left Scotland to move to France, where
she had her family, before returning to her homeland, so there are elements when you do wonder if Zoe’s observations on her new life are, perhaps, some of those seen by the author.
Another hit from Scotland’s undisputed rom com ruler.
The Bookshop on the Shore, by Jenny Colgan, published by Sphere, £12.99.