Weekend Reads: “The Last Bookshop in London”

The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War IIThe Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grace and Viv come up from Drayton to London, with plans to have a glamorous life. Viv, with a letter of reference in-hand, goes to work at Harrods. Grace, who worked in her uncle’s store, has no reference … but one of the local booksellers, Mr. Evans, agrees to take her on at Primrose Hill Books. The problem is, she’s not much of a reader. George, a handsome patron of the shop, gives her recommendations.

Soon, though, as Grace reorganizes the shop, it’s WWII … and everything changes. George is called up, and Viv volunteers for one of the women’s corps and goes away. Grace becomes a rescue volunteer, going out at night to help during the Blitz or reading aloud from the books she’s coming to love to those gathered in the Tube stations by night.

We also see the tribulations in Grace’s boarding house and neighborhood, and get to know the fancier bookstores just a few blocks away from Grace’s little shop.

The book is based on an amalgamation of the few bookstores that survived the Blitz. The characters are believable, and I came to care and worry about them. There were both smiles and tears as I read. Grace learns a lot about herself and others throughout the pages and, in true hero’s journey fashion, is irrevocably changed by the end of the book.

Madeline Martin has clearly done her homework in order write so vividly about life in London during WWII. Even those for whom the era is not a specific/especial interest are sure to enjoy this tale of a community that grows up in adversity around the little book shop. Highly recommended.

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