The Last Bookshop in London
A Novel of World War II
by Madeline Martin
As soon as I saw the title of this book, I wanted to read it. The magic word, of course, was bookshop. I also found the cover to be very appealing. So, I initially judged this one by its cover. That said, I wasn’t’ disappointed.
This novel’s protagonist, Grace, is a young woman who recently lost her mother. Along with her best friend, Viv, she moves to London to stay with a family friend. The two arrive only to have war declared not long after. Viv enters one of the women’s units while Grace remains with her mother’s friend. She takes a position in a bookshop and the shop is also a character in the book.
This story points out the importance of literature. In a lovely scene, Grace goes underground during a bombing raid where she begins reading Middlemarch to those who are stuck in the shelter over night. Those stuck there look forward to additional chapters when the next call to go underground comes.
Grace organized the bookshop and develops a relationship with its curmudgeonly owner. She studies way to make the shop successful and, for example, advertises buying books to read while unable to sleep in one’s beds due to the bombings.
The author does a good job of portraying wartime Britain. There are losses of people, property, usual foods, a way of life. There are also the joys of friendship, love, books and connection.
There are so many WWII set novels being written now. My theory is that, awful as the war was, it is more reassuring to look back at that time than our current one. For all of the suffering, the reader knows that eventually Britain will declare victory.
I think that this title is worth reading. Let me know what you think!
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this title. All opinions are my own.