While fiction is usually not my preferred genre, a friend recommended Emily Henry’s Book Lovers because I am, in fact, a lover of books. When I saw that Henry is a New York Times Bestselling author I was excited. When I saw a quote on the cover from Taylor Jenkins Reid (author of two of my favorite fiction books Daisy Jones & the Six and Malibu Rising) describing it as “A rom-com lover’s dream of a book” I rolled my eyes. But I was also happy that Reid liked it.
Anyway – I dove in and, similar to Reid’s novels, Book Lovers is a page-turner about love and family. Although the novel features some romantic comedy aspects, the narrator/main character (Nora) is a type-A literary agent who calls out the romantic comedy genre from (literally) page one. It’s brilliant and hilarious. In fact, Nora has been in the book business so long that she knows exactly how these typical storylines work – i.e. the makeover transforms the nerd when he/she removes her glasses and the uptight workaholic from [insert fast-paced city here] finds love in a small town while on some sort of life-changing hiatus. It’s funny and foreshadowing in the best way possible, yet Henry still pulls off a few surprises.
While the “central relationship” is between Nora and Charlie (who calls her by her last name which is a fun detail that speaks to his personality on many levels), much of the novel is spent exploring Nora’s relationship with her sister Libby and their relationship with their deceased mother. This narrative is also a classic “life imitating art imitating life” scenario that’s mostly clever but also earns a few eye rolls. That being said, the banter between Nora and Charlie, and Nora and Libby, is gold.
As I’m learning through my newfound enjoyment of New York Times Bestselling novels, it’s all about the dialogue. And the descriptions. Nora loves checklists, exercises to tame her anxiety, wants to be able to fix any problem she is faced with, and compares her heart to an overheating laptop. She also uses a lot of fire imagery throughout the novel – torch, lightning, electricity, live wires, etc. – and it’s clear that she is learning that there are some people who get under your skin and stay there. One term she uses too often is “beat” as in “take a beat.” But I do love her use of place as a metaphor for her characters and how she’s able to maintain relatability throughout the narrative. Henry is definitely not afraid to point out the ridiculous nature of certain situations and ensures that her characters don’t take themselves too seriously.
When Henry wrote the line “I want to make it all last, and I need to know how it ends. I want to finish it, and I need it to go on forever” I’m fairly certain that she knew that readers would feel the same about Book Lovers. I know I did.
“I stifle the shiver that runs down my spine whenever a twenty-something calls me ma’am. This must be how ghosts feel when people walk over their graves.”
“He laughs, a husky, jagged sound, one that belongs in a crammed Brooklyn bar.”
On her young niece: “Opinionated and determined to never follow any command without a thorough explanation.”
“This is the problem with small towns: one minor lapse in judgment and you can’t go a mile without running into it.”
My favorite: “Of course I have a checklist. What am I, an animal?”
“Our conversations feel less like we’re taking turns carrying the torch and more like we’re playing table tennis while said table is on fire.”
“You’d rather be somewhere loud and crowded, where just existing feels like a competition.”
“She lifts the wine bottle in her hand like it’s a question.”
“He’s the exception to every rule.”
“The ragged edge of his voice knocks the wind out of me.”
“Like a gut-punch of a sentence, a line so sharp you have to set the book aside to catch your breath.”
“Maybe it’s neither of our jobs to keep a steel spine.”
“I invite the truth forward to replace the story.”
“Maybe love shouldn’t be built on a foundation of compromises, but maybe it can’t exist without them either.”
“It’s like remembering a favorite book. One that left you gutted, sure, but also changed you forever.”