I've always been intrigued by The Green Man. Most of the images I've seen of him were of a laughing smiling man, inviting you to share in his mirth. But The Green Man book store is buried, In books (absolutely no pun intended), in layers of dust, memories, ghosts of better days and of the poets of the past. When O's father goes to Italy to research his book on Ezra Pound he sends her to stay with her aunt. At one point it seems like she might have had a choice to go with him or go to her aunt's, Italy would have seemed to be the logical choice for a girl in her teens, but spending the summer in a bookstore isn't terrible either. However, O. is not expecting the mess of a life she finds when she gets to her aunt's house and store. Emily, as her aunt insists on being called, is preoccupied with something and the store and house is in complete neglect as is Emily's health. O. forces her to stop smoking as she can't stand it and Emily has just suffered a recent heart attack. And as the summer progresses, O. slowly transforms The Green Man from the past, into the present, keeping the ghosts of the poets alive, but removing the clutter and dust of years of stasis.
Eccentric is what I'd call Emily. She's a poet, spent her life traveling around writing poetry never settling down until she found the Green Man. She walks around the ghostly figure of the poet Mallarme on the stairs that lead up to the apartment above the store. O. is startled at first, of course there is no one there, but she pretends and goes along with it. Her aunt also has no computer and piles and piles of boxes of books waiting to be shelved on the dusty shelves. O. notes as she goes to fix something to eat, "The fridge sat in the corner of the room, humming to itself and trying to look busy." (Kindle ARC) I pictured this rounded cartoonish refrigerator kind of buzzing with excitement hoping to be noticed. And it works because O. takes over the cooking and fills the shelves of the pantry and the refrigerator. No longer does she allow Emily coffee and cigarettes for breakfast.
The story is told sometimes for Emily's point of view and sometimes O.'s, but no matter who is doing the telling, it is clear that things are changing. They are becoming more alike. Something is up, something sinister, not like a murder or a robber, but something darker that's playing tricks on both of their minds and O. is realizing that she is a poet, that in order to be, she must write. The paranormal aspects of this novel were somewhat confusing at first because Emily is in her seventies and you don't know if it's the ramblings of an old woman's memories or if it's something believable. But it lends a feeling of creepiness to the latter part of the book. It also joins Emily and O. in a bond as more than relatives, they have experienced more than that and they are poets, together. The Green Man is aptly named as "the doorway between imagination and creation." (Kindle ARC)
This novel is very clean with a light air of romance, but more mystery to that too. It is perfect for anyone that loves stories about The Green Man, about poetry, about coming or age stories, stories about the three stages of life, about supernatural/bizarre stories. So, pretty much anyone would love this story. I thought the writing was subtle in what it was saying, and poetic, but not cryptic. Anyone with any interest in poetry would miss out if they didn't read this one. Just to note, it is not, I repeat, not written in verse. Just well written. Soft phrasing. Gentle nudges at what it's hinting at beneath the words. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I'll be picking up my own hardbound copy of this one.
Thank you to the publisher Tundra Books for the ARC via NetGalley. This in no way affected my review of the novel and no monetary compensation was received for my review.