In a Nutshell:
This book is another story that revolves around an old dusty bookstore. So, for you bibliophiles out there-this is a good one! The story revolves around a young girl named Rosemary Savage who migrates to New York after her mother passes away. She lived a very sheltered, quiet life with her mother in Tasmania. They lived above her mother's hat shop, and they had few friends. When she arrives in New York, she is pretty much a fish out of water and has very little money. One day, on her wanderings, she comes across an old bookstore and walks in. Out of desperation, she gets the nerve to ask for a job. The owner takes her up on it, and she becomes a part of the eccentric, odd cast of characters that work in this dusty, crowded bookstore called the Arcade. There is an opera-singer transvestite who acts like her older sister and watches out for her. There is the blustery, shrewd owner, Pike. A jolly, magnanimous, rare book dealer and an albino assistant manager named Walter Geist who draws Rosemary into an odd web of mystery regarding a lost manuscript of Herman Melville's. There are more characters as well, and all of them are more comfortable with the old, dusty tomes than real life outside of the Arcade. Rosemary falls in love with Oscar, and effeminate loner who sort of becomes her friend but never really reciprocates her feelings.The mystery of the lost Melville manuscript is woven throughout the book, and allows Hay to also weave in much symbolism and metaphor with references to Moby Dick. As Walter Geist starts having feelings for Rosemary as they try to get the Melville manuscript, and Oscar want to get it first because he hates Walter-Rosemary gets caught in conflict and confusion, not understanding which side she should be on.
There was a lot of merit in this book for me. I loved the rich cast of characters, and the way New York is described in this book from the perspective of a very young, poor girl just trying to survive and thrive. I also loved the deep description of this very interesting Bookshop. I found myself wanting to visit it, being a book lover myself. You just get lost in its crowded aisles and dusty, chaotic shelves, just like the characters themselves. That was the best part for me. The Melville mystery added interest and a plot-but I enjoyed the character development more. The layer of Moby Dick references and parallels in the writing became a little tedious for me and I did not feel that they were necessary. But overall, a very engrossing read.