Cornershop Book Review #2: Cornershop, by Roopa Farooki

In which we look at the Corner Shop in ‘literature’…
In the interests of academic research and a more interesting blogsite, we have recently taken to reading the odd book whilst propping up the counter. Not any old pulp fiction, we’ll have you know: there are strict criteria. The book must be about shop life. We wanted to know how the corner shopkeeper is being portrayed out there, and set the record straight if necessary. This exercise is also, of course, a very good way of lending gravitas to the shopkeeper’s image….
Synopsis: Laid back widower Zaki runs his Hammersmith cornershop in a very hands-off kind of way, more interested in form at the local bookies or the female form in general, rarely connecting with his successful solicitor son. His grandson, Lucky, however is a frequent visitor to the shop on account of his crush on Portia, Zaki’s shop girl. Lucky also has another passion: football. And he is by all accounts rather good at it.
Lucky’s parents are rather less content: father Jinan is career focused, whilst mother Delphine is a bored housewife wondering whether to rekindle the flames of lost passion with Zaki. Confused yet? Hey, most lives are a bit confusing, and this book is indeed full of lives. But to say more would be to give too much away.
This is a story of luck, and destiny, fulfilment and disappointment, and family-shaped complications.
Real Shop Cred: What it is not is a story about cornershop keeping. In fact, the concept is mentioned in very disparaging comments throughout the novel:

My father…was a shopkeeper and he made me one too. I wanted my son to be something different, something creative. He didn’t become a shopkeeper at least, but he became a lawyer. Almost as bad.

This tone only served to aggravate your reviewer, as we are sure you will understand. The cornershop is seen as the swallower of dreams, a last resort, a punishment to inflict upon the next generation. Little of the action in this book actually takes place in or involves shops, and what little there is lies more in the realms of retail fantasy. Zaki is apparently able to walk in and out of his shop without ever seeming to lock it up, stock it, cash up or anything else – would that real shops were that easy to run. So Cornershop scores a lowly 1 out of 10 on the Real Shop Credometer.
Buy, Borrow or Avoid: Well, for all its lack of real-shop-cred, and anti-retail snobbery, we have to say this is a storming good read. Ms. Farooki is a smashing writer, who dishes out an almost un-put-downable, fairy-tale-esque drama, and we would say BUY. Er, unless you are a fellow shopkeeper.

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