Book Reviews

Review #3: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

A book review for a novel written in the 21st century, how exciting! I love books from any time, but I thought a more recent publication would be a good idea for review #3. So without further ado, here is a fantastic novel for any bookworm – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, published by Picador in 2013, 288 pages

Synopsis from the back cover:

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name for its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything – instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.


Why is this not a real thing?! Why aren’t all bookstores open 24-hours?! Yes, I know that would be a terrible thing for a bookworm’s bank account, and social life, and vitamin D needs, but details, details!

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is pretty much everything you could possibly need in a quick novel – mysterious setting, a quintessentially bookish shopkeeper, a lost protagonist who finds comfort around books, quirky and endearing characters, with secrets and adventure around every corner. I really liked the mix of old and new, in that our main character and his friends are most definitely from the 21st century (web-designers, GOOGLE employees, just general tech-savvy humans) but the bookstore, its proprietor and regular customers have the eccentricity and charm of something from the last century. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it; most books are either all 21st century, technology based or set in the last century or more. This juxtaposition is coupled with missing persons, secret societies, and ancient quests that don’t really seem all that out of place in a 24-hour bookstore. Ticking off ever more boxes, this novel also has a touch of Latin, awesome character names (Rosemary Lapin is a personally favourite), and a manhunt across America for a bookstore-owner named Mr. Penumbra. I really struggle to find any faults in this novel, because the whole concept is just so fascinating! I would most definitely recommend Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore to anyone and everyone, because I feel like there is something for every reader.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

If someone could get on this and make it a real thing, I would be most appreciative, thank you in advance. I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Happy reading!

x Lauren


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