Posted by: Lizzie Ross | May 10, 2010

“Cute as a button,” he said

Parnassus on Wheels, Christopher Morley (1917), Lippincott, 160 pp.

When I asked the dealer in the used bookshop* about this book and its sequel, he said they were “cute as a button,” and I can now safely say that the first one meets that description.

Adventure, love, and books: a nearly unbeatable combination, and Morley puts them together very neatly. Helen McGill, age 39, lives with her unappreciative brother, a farmer whose recent fame as an author causes him to neglect his farm. Then adventure, in the form of a horse-drawn bookstore (the Parnassus of the title), falls into her lap, and she heads out onto the byways of Connecticut preaching the “gospel of good books.”

As the previous owner of the Parnassus explains to Helen,

… when you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue–you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night–there’s all heaven and earth in a book ….

This is one of those stories where you guess fairly early on what’s going to happen to the heroine, but you enjoy watching her finally catch up with you.

*Adventures in Books, Colorado Springs

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