The Night Bookmobile – Audrey Niffenegger

If anyone is ever going through a reading funk, which I had been of late if I am honest, then the first book that I would recommend for them as a prescription and possible cure would have to be ‘The Night Bookmobile’ a graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger. I am not sure that I would recommend it to someone who was thoroughly depressed though if I am honest, more on that later though.

Jonathan Cape, hardback, 2010, graphic novel, 40 pages, from the library

Normally I don’t include the blurb of a book, however Neil Gaiman has written this one so without further ado here is his: “The Night Bookmobile is a love letter, both elegiac and heartbreaking, to the things we have read, and to the readers that we are. It says that what we read makes us who we are. It’s a graphic short story, beautifully drawn and perfectly told, a cautionary fantasia for anyone who has ever loved books, and I hope the story of the library, of Alexandra, finds its place on the night bookmobiles of all of who’d care. It’s a treasure.” Now doesn’t that just sound the perfect book for any book lover?

‘The Night Bookmobile’, which started life as an illustrated column in The Guardian,  is in many ways a complete celebration of the books we have loved and remembers, not finished but meant to and those we read and forgot about.  One night after a row with her boyfriend Alexandra is walking the streets of her neighbourhood when she comes across the Night Bookmobile and is drawn inside. Here she discovers a Tardis-like space of shelves with endless books, as she browses she soon realises that this is her very own library with all the books she has read, or started and left unfinished, throughout her lifetime. This reawakens her love of reading and soon sees her changing her life with a much more bookish bent. I simply loved this premise and it started making me think about all the books and authors I have loved the most, onces who I have said I would keep on reading and haven’t, etc, etc. I soon had a list of lots of reading I was desperate to turn to again.

I do however have a few little qualms about ‘The Night Bookmobile’. The first would have to be its length as it is just 64 pages long, which is fine bevause it is a stuningly beautiful read yet means there is a slight lack of depth. We never quite know what is going on with Alexandra when she remeets the Night Bookmobile at random points in her life and I would have liked to know more. I do also think on a slight tangent but still based on its length – and this is nothing to do with the author – that maybe the price should reflect its length too, though I picked mine up at the library I think it is worth a mention.

The second one is difficult to discuss without spoilers, but I will try, and that is the ending. It is rather tragic, seems to come from nowhere and rather disturbed me with the message it was passing on. I wondered if I had missed something somewhere, so happily read the book again, and I hadn’t. This ending came out of nowhere, didn’t really make sense and left me feeling uneasy and wishing the last few pages hadn’t been included, it was up until then almost perfect.

That said for its celebration of books, and I loved the fact its designed like a child’s picture book too, I did really like this book for the passion about books it has behind it. It is the sort of book that makes you think ‘this author knows why I read’ and I was thrilled to learn that this is in fact part of something called ‘The Library’ which Niffenegger is working on and off all the time. Could she hurry up please and a longer more in depth book by her about loving books would simply be perfect.

Has anyone else read ‘The Night Bookmobile’ and if so what did you think, without spoilers if possible, was the point of the ending or the message? I thought it was tragic yet trying to be hopeful in a tone of some desperation. Does that make sense?


Filed under Audrey Niffenegger, Books About Books, Graphic Novels, Jonathan Cape Publishers, Review

18 responses to “The Night Bookmobile – Audrey Niffenegger

  1. Niffengger is easily my favourite current writer. The Night Bookmobile is superb, and though the ending is harrowing, it feels fitting to the character. Did you read the short story that was included in The Guardian’s book a fortnight back? It carried the same vibe as Bookmobile but without the macabre feelings. You should also check out The Adventuress, which is another of her graphic novels.

    She is apparently very close to finishing The Chinchilla Girl in Exile. I for one can’t wait!

  2. This sounds interesting. Think it’s another for my Amazon Wish List!

  3. Yes I’ve read it (it was serialized in The Guardian some time back) and enjoyed it. Always difficult to end such stories without somehow making the reader feel short changed. I feel that about a lot of novels that I read actually!

    I’m quite taken, from time to time, with the macabre and this graphic novel works quite well in many ways.

    • I do quite like the macabre myself, I just thought ‘goodness lets hope not all book lovers feel like this in later life’ I was perplexed and just wanted to learn more of the reason behind the sudden ending.

  4. This sounds absolutely wonderful, Simon! I must track it down. In fact, I feel sure I saw it in a bookshop the other day and didn’t have time to look at it… but where was I??

    • Ahhh that awful ‘I know I have seen that book somewhere, but where’ I had that today but the opposite way round. I was offered a book from a publisher new someone was raving about it and then couldnt think who it was or why they are raving so highly. Then it clicked. Hope it clicks for you.

  5. Simon, Audrey N mentioned ‘the Chincilla Girl.’. when she did her reading/interview with Tracy Chevalier up at Highgate Cemetery. I was a bit shocked to realise this was way back in May 2010. The book’s been a fairly long time in gestation. Let’s hope it’s an improvement on ‘Her Fearful Symmetry.’

    • Oh I missed that event Mark, in fact I miss Highgate Cemetery in general now I am up north! Anyway… It is a great title for a novel I give it that, though I would like her to write a novel based in a library. I didn’t loathe Her Fearful Symmetry, I just didn’t love it and didn’t believe in it or get grasped by it in hindsight. It was ok, and Highgate was a star which was good, I just didn’t like the twins. I wanted more of the neighbours.

  6. Samir

    Thanks for the review. I didn’t even know she’d released a graphic book and now I can’t wait to read it.

  7. Pingback: Getting Graphic! | Savidge Reads

  8. Pingback: The Adventuress – Audrey Niffenegger | Savidge Reads

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