The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II
By Madeline Martin
(320 pages, fiction, 2021)
It is August 1939. Grace Bennett and her best friend Viv have always wanted to live in London. They travel to the big city just as blackout curtains are being put up and people are preparing for the blitz. Viv gets a job at Harrod’s, the magnificent department store. But Grace is given a job (reluctantly) by Mr. Evans at his bookshop. Their landlady Mrs. Weatherford was a friend of Grace’s mother, and she rents them rooms and cooks their meals. Mrs. Weatherford’s son Colin takes care of the exotic animals sold at Harrod’s. And it is Mrs. Weatherford who persuades Mr. Evans to give Grace a job at his bookstore.
Grace convinces Mr. Evans to make small changes to fix up the bookshop. Grace is not a reader, but a handsome young man named George gives Grace some reading suggestions. The war intensifies and Grace becomes an Air Raid Warden. She directs people to shelters when enemy planes drop bombs, and helps put out fires caused by the bombs. Grace begins to read aloud to people in the shelters and then starts a regular book reading at Primrose Hill Books.
We see Grace’s character grow as she assumes more responsibility at the bookstore and helps during the air raids. This is a wonderful tale about love, which appears in unexpected places, the power of friendship, and endurance. And how the written word can bring people together and sustain them during terrible times.
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