The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted
In the late 1960s, on the farm he has inherited from his uncle in Victoria’s north, Tom Hope endeavours to live a tranquil life. The type of person who allocates scarce time to running over acorns with a tractor to enable them to be eaten by visiting wild ducks, he seems unlikely to prosper in agriculture. An unsuccessful marriage to flighty Trudy increases his humility before a largely empathetic rural community and places Trudy’s infant son in his care for a time. Tom discovers a talent for fatherhood in the short period before the child is taken to live with its mother in a faith community, far away to the south.
Hannah Babel, an Hungarian Jew, has endured the horrors of Auschwitz where she lost her husband and son, and lived through the Russian occupation and nihilism that characterised the aftermath of the war in Budapest. She has battled her way to Australia with wit, beauty and reserves of strength, and after some time spent teaching in a series of rural towns, opens a bookshop. The bookshop, symbol of folly and opportunity, a magnetic meeting place for those sensitive to the past and all the potential of the future, is a natural fulcrum for this book.
Told in the matter of fact, laconic tone which often characterises the dialect of much of rural Australia, where wry humour and understatement shroud reservoirs of emotional depth, this story visits various forms of extremism upon big-hearted people and explores the impacts on them. Robert Hillman brings to us the quiet joy we all experience when two likeable people find one another amongst all the chaos of the world. - MARK
It is 1968 in rural Australia and young Tom Hope is doing his best. In love with the land, but not much of a farmer, it's when his wife becomes pregnant--though by another man--that Tom finds true fulfilment in the role of a father. When inevitably his wife leaves, taking little Peter with her, Tom is heartbroken.
Enter Hannah Babel, quixotic smalltown bookseller: the second Jewish person--and the most vivid woman--Tom has ever met. Hannah has opened the town's first bookshop, filling its shelves with all the darkness and light of post-war Europe. Tom dares to believe they could make each other happy, but Hannah is a haunted woman. Twenty-four years ago she and her own little boy had arrived at Auschwitz.
About learning to make peace with evils both great and small, The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted is gorgeously written, gentle-spirited, and wise, sharing a hopeful story of unexpected love and second chances.
`While it may not be a novel's main purpose, certainly one of its pleasures can lie in how it witnesses the history of the form itself...Robert Hillman's Joyful is most immediately a nineteenth-century novel, a detailed work that portrays an entire, sealed world of complex and ultimately connected storylines.' * Australian Book Review, on Joyful * `Counting against all [the] business is Hillman's gift for compelling characters, the elegance of his prose and his genius with inventive, surprising dialogue.' * The Saturday Paper, on Joyful * `Hillman's prose is a pleasure to read, elegantly alert to the paradox of strong feeling [and] full of poetry.' * Australian, on Joyful *