Lost Coast Literary by Ellie Alexander

This review first appeared on Rosie Amber Reviews on February 22, 2022. You can purchase a copy here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ellie Alexander is a book lover’s book lover, and her passion shines out through every page of her latest novel, Lost Coast Literary. Literature comes alive and the editor’s pen is all powerful in misty Cascata, a magical town on California’s lost coast where the air is fresh, the shops are whimsical, and every stranger on the street seems ready to talk books at the drop of a hat.

            Emily Bryant, a fledgling editor at a New York City publishing house, has returned to Cascata after decades away. The editor only wants to settle her estranged grandmother’s will and get back to her life in the Big Apple, but something in the air, the people, and the rambling mansion she has inexplicably inherited all keep holding her back, drawing Emily deeper into the mystery of her own past.

            There’s a fine line that author’s walk when they create a character, particularly a first-person point of view character like Emily, who is a major fan of something. The balance between conveying how much the character loves whatever it is they love (books, in Emily’s case) and not beating the audience over the head with that information, can be delicate. Emily’s, and by extension Alexander’s, love of all things book-nerdy – new, old, obscure, mainstream, and everywhere in-between, is made clear across the course of Lost Coast Literary without ever becoming cloying. Everything about Emily, from the case of the phone in her pocket, to the lens she views the world with, is colored by her love of literature, and yet that passion never crosses the line into cloying.

I can’t help but think that at least part of that stems from the variety of books and references made across the course of the novel. Too many authors get caught up on making sure we know their characters love reading by telling us how much time they spend buried in Austen or Bronte. Make no mistakes, the classics have their place on Emily’s shelves, but they sit alongside Ursula Le Guin, Mary Oliver, and Dodie Smith, among many, many others. Emily is a creature of varied tastes and wide appetite in her reading, and a detail like that makes all the difference when it comes to bringing a character to life.

            Thick with atmosphere and just the right number of bookish winks, nods, and nudges, Lost Coast Literary has a little bit of everything: family drama, magical mystery, the kinds of conversations bibliophiles dream of, a whole lot of heart, and a heaping helping of fun.