A Novel of World War II
by Madeline Martin
I very much enjoyed this author’s first novel, The Last Bookshop in London. I was so delighted to see that she had written a second book. This one is set during WWII as was the first.
What could be more enticing than a novel called The Librarian Spy? I couldn’t wait to open the book and then became immersed . I highly recommend this sophomore effort on Ms. Martin’s part.
This time the author has developed a plot that feels more complex than that of the first book as she follows two different woman. The Librarian Spy is Ava. When the story opens she is working at the Library of Congress in D.C. Ava very much likes her job and the feeling of security that being surrounded by books provides for her. Nonetheless, when she is tapped for a special assignment, Ava takes the new position even though it means getting on a plane, something that is highly fraught for her (readers will learn why).
Ava finds herself in Portugal. Not all readers may know that Portugal was neutral during the war. The author does a terrific job of portraying the city. There are no shortages for many while others are waiting in long lines, hoping against hope to be able to board a ship and to leave Europe. There are the many who watch others; these Portuguese and Germans leave others feeling unsafe despite the neutrality.
Ava’s job is to collect newspapers and other documents that can be transmitted to the States. She meets with a number of characters in the course of her work. Readers especially watch her relationship with the British James.
Meanwhile in France, a second plot line unfolds. This is the story of brave Elaine. Her name has been changed, because, as readers learn early in her part of the book, she gave her papers to a Jewish woman who was fleeing. She was lucky to get new ones. Now, as Elaine, she is involved with the Resistance. Elaine’s husband has been captured and readers may feel a great deal as they wait to see if he will survive the war.
Readers follow Elaine through a depleted city as she couriers, and into the woods where the maquis hide. Will she survive? Will her work change anything in the war? Will Elaine lose friends to the Germans? Finally, how will the two stories intersect?
As I have previously noted, there have been so many WWII titles published for historical fiction fans so it can be hard for any particular one to stand out. In this novel, I found that the courage of these characters moved me especially when I think about the current state of our world and the need for values and bravery in the face of challenges. I recommend this novel even within a crowded field.
Readers who have enjoyed novels by Susan Elia MacNeal and/or Anne Perry’s Elena Standish series may also want to give this title a look.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin for this title. All opinions are my own.
Pub Date 26 Jul 2022
The author’s first book:
The Last Bookshop in London
A Novel of World War II
by Madeline Martin
Pub Date 06 Apr 2021
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.