Stuff and Nonsense: Sweet Shop of Dreams


9.04.2015

Sweet Shop of Dreams


Sherbet lemons. Pear drops. Nougats. Rock. Humbugs. If these words don't thrill you or fill your heart with nostalgia-tinted joy, Sweet Shop of Dreams is probably not for you. Oh, ostensibly this is a romance novel about a woman who goes to take care of an ailing elderly relation in a twee rural English village, becomes entangled in the daily lives of the townsfolk, and finds True Love quite unexpectedly. And it is that kind of story. But it's also very much a love song to sweetshops with each chapter prefaced by an excerpt or recipe from Lilian's sweets book.

This is the first novel I've read by Colgan since I read Talking to Addison and Amanda's Wedding over a decade ago. I don't understand the gap as I really enjoyed those two novels and had every intention of reading more. And yet here it is many years later, Colgan has written many more of books, and I've read none of them. Clearly, I need an app that will track the authors I enjoy and regularly remind me that it has been X many months since I read anything by them. (I DO NOT need it to tell me about forthcoming books. Dear heaven, I am buried in forthcoming titles).

So. The book. You want to hear about the book. It's a sweet little confection. Light and airy like meringue with just a hint of bittersweet feels running through it to keep it from treacle-sweetness. Great Aunt Lilian is a delightful character, but her story is -- unlike Rosie's -- not so clearly a happy one and her end-of-life circumstances lend a poignancy to the novel that it would otherwise lack.

Unfortunately, while Colgan has done such a great job bringing her primary and secondary characters to life, her "bad" characters are surprisingly undeveloped. Yes, the dentist hates sugar and wants to turn the sweetshop into a carpark. I understand. I don't need to be reminded of that every time he walks across the page. What else is there to him? Nothing. The same with Hester and CeeCee.


All and all, though, I really enjoyed Sweetshop of Dreams and look forward to reading Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop if I can find a copy of it stateside. While Colgan is a prolific writer and seems popular enough in the US, some of her works are not available here. Weirdly, in the UK Sweetshop of Dreams was published as Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams. American publishers, what gives? Why change a perfectly good title? And the British edition has a much more attractive cover with proper sweets jars on it and everything! Why?!

And here's Jenny Colgan in a proper sweetshop talking about Sweetshop of Dreams:


Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan (Sourcebooks, 2014)

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