Published by Berkley Books on July 9, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Women's Fiction
The author of Other People's Houses and The Garden of Small Beginnings delivers a quirky and charming novel chronicling the life of confirmed introvert Nina Hill as she does her best to fly under everyone's radar. Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own...shell.
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book. When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They're all--or mostly all--excited to meet her! She'll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It's a disaster! And as if that wasn't enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn't he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options. 1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.) 2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee). 3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.
Nina Hill and I could definitely be besties. We’d be so content to spend our Thursday evenings curled up in our respective chairs, silently reading, drinking tea, and not speaking to each other. We’d go home for the evening thinking we had spent a perfectly lovely evening and looking forward to the next week.
Because that’s Nina’s life. She plans out literally everything in her planner each week, including times she doesn’t want to do anything.(Those times are labeled “nothing” in her planner). She has social anxiety that makes it extremely difficult to be around other people, but she works in a bookshop where she has to interact with customers during the day, and spends her evenings at various social activities. She recognizes this contradiction, but it’s just a part of her life. If she doesn’t have something to occupy her mind, her brain just flies in every direction, completely unmoored, and constantly hounding her with random questions she needs to answer immediately, or just thoughts that are disjointed and jumbled. She sees them as her first line of self-defense against mental torture.
Her life is complete. It’s solitary, but she likes it that way. Growing up, it was just her and her mother, and her mother traveled almost constantly, so it was really just her and her nanny. She learned to prefer her own company and shy away from socializing. But she’s suddenly forced out of her comfort zone when her previously unknown biological father dies and names her in his will. Her father was married multiple times, and he had children in each marriage, so she’s suddenly surrounded by siblings, nieces, nephews, I think even a few grand-niblings. There are so many people, and they all want to get to know the stranger suddenly in their midst.
At the same time all of this is happening, Nina has met someone. Someone she’s very, very interested in. Eventually. At first she doesn’t like him very much, though this isn’t an enemies to lovers book. You could maybe, MAYBE say rivals to lovers if you stretched it, but it would be a big stretch. They’re on rival bar trivia teams (She’s on Book ‘Em, Danno and he’s on You’re A Quizzard, Harry) They’re usually 1st and 2nd in the trivia matches, with each taking top honors sometimes. It’s not a real rivalry, she’s just mildly annoyed by him. The fact that he’s Quizzard’s sports expert means, in Nina’s opinion, that he’s not very smart, and he probably isn’t really a reader, which in her mind, makes him unworthy of crushing on. Clearly, she changes her mind.
This is a lot of upheaval in Nina’s life at one time, and she’s the first to admit that it’s taking a toll. She does pretty well with it for a while, and she likes most of the family she’s introduced to, but this much socializing eventually becomes too much for her. She needs to decide for herself whether she wants to retreat back into a life of total solitude, or open herself to the new people in her life.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was a delight. It was light and fluffy, and exactly the book I needed to finish up my 2019 reading. There wasn’t one thought Nina had that I haven’t had myself, and seeing myself reflected in Nina, in all her awkward, introverted glory, was a relief. I may be XXX years old, but sometimes I still feel like that kid hiding in the school bathroom at lunch so I can read in peace.
There were only a few things about this that I didn’t love. The extended family was a bit much. We were introduced to them all at once, and it was nearly impossible to keep them all straight. It was a huge family. I don’t know if it was necessary for them all to be there, but it did help to shove Nina out of her comfort zone. She held her own with them, though, even the ones who clearly didn’t want her here.
The other thing that was a bit much was Nina herself. I know I’ve said multiple times how much I liked Nina, and I did. But, to be fair, she’s a giant walking stereotype. She lives alone. She prefers to be alone. She’s surrounded by books, they’re stacked on her floors, and covering the built-in bookshelves which were the main reason she chose her house. She works in a bookstore. She’s packed full of random trivia knowledge, which makes her the best player on the best trivia team in Los Angeles. She has a cat named Phil. Etc. I could have done with one fewer cliché. (It’s also more women’s fiction than actual romance, FWIW)
None of that stopped me from enjoying this book immensely, though. If you need something light and fluffy, this might be your winner.