The Peacock Emporium – by Jojo Moyes – independent book review – Fiction

Here is the latest offering from bestselling author Jojo Moyes. Like the other books I’ve read by JoJo Moyes, this has an interesting and unpredictable plot and a cast of distinctive characters, in both primary and supporting roles. Dialog and relationships are original, complex, and believable. All good! I like this author. My main criticism with this one is the book’s structure. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

At the beginning, Moyes introduces a bunch of characters in sequential stand-alone chapters. No connection between them. This is a technique I’ve found several authors using lately — so it must be in vogue. The issue, for me, is that I then need to remember multiple story lines, without yet knowing how they will ultimately intersect. So just as I’m just getting to know one character, the chapter ends and that character is then set aside for some chunk of the book. And whatever emotional attachment I might have is set aside as well. 

Obviously, the storylines do eventually link up and the central part of the novel follows a more linear plot line, focusing on Suzannah. She is a child of privilege from a family where she feels like an outsider and she has just returned to live in the small English town where she grew up, near that family. She is unsettled in her 10 year marriage to Neal and ambivalent about having children. Somewhat whimsically, she decides she will find her true purpose by opening up a new shop (aka The Peacock Emporium). 

As an entrepreneur, Suzannah (and we readers) gets to know a bunch of locals. A lonely old women who comes regularly to pass judgement on everything and everyone and to exercise her relentless self-involvement. A sunny young mother who becomes the cornerstone of establishing a welcoming atmosphere at the shop. A foreign-born male midwife whose darker skin makes it difficult to find acceptance in this small town. Plus, a few nearby shop owners. 

Then, as we approach the end of the novel, the author employs the same writing technique as she did at the start — ending with a number of chapters that seem unconnected, where Moyes initially and intentionally obscures which character is being discussed. I’m not sure what this adds.

Jojo Moyes

To be honest, I simply find this technique annoying. To me, an author should create something that so immerses the reader that each gets lost inside the novel. Instead, what Moyes has done in this one is use such a heavy-handed structure that it interferes in that total immersion. Form over content. Not my preferred approach to fiction.

More about the author, Jojo Moyes.

You may be interested in my reviews of other books by Moyes, most of which I liked better than this one:

The Giver of Stars

Me Before You

After You

Still Me

Last Letter From Your Lover

The Girl You Left Behind

Sheltering Rain

The Ship of Brides

One Plus One