By Kathy Porter
A timeless story of wartime loss during The Blitz in London
‘‘The Last Bookshop in London’’
By Madeline Martin. Heroine finds safety in words as bombs fall.
After her mother dies, Grace Bennett discovers that her uncle owns the house in Drayton where she grew up. She never expected her uncle to be so cruel and insist she move out.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Weatherford, a childhood friend of Grace’s mother, has offered Grace a room to rent in London, where she’s always dreamed of living. Her best friend Vivienne persuades Grace to accept the opportunity and tells her they will begin the new adventure together.
London in 1939, however, is not the gem they expected. Sadly, the signs of impending war are evident everywhere. Windows are covered in blackout fabric and taped to prevent shattering. Walls of sandbags have been erected, especially around anti-aircraft guns. Shelters and trenches are being dug.
Despite all this, the girls know they need to get jobs because returning to Drayton is not an option. Viv, with a letter of recommendation she has written, lands a job at the famous Harrods department store. Grace has worked tirelessly for years restoring her uncle’s housewares store, but he refuses to give her a letter of recommendation. She cannot get a job without one, and she does not have the courage to author her own. Mrs. Weatherford uses her powers of persuasion and gets Grace a position at Primrose Hill Books.
How can she possibly work in a bookstore? The only book she has read is Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and it’s obvious the curmudgeon Mr. Evans is not interested in having an assistant. Plus, the shop is an absolute mess. Books are piled knee-high all over the shop with no rhyme or reason, and everything is coated in dust. Grace launches the challenge of cleaning and organizing the bookstore, and soon becomes an avid reader. As war is declared, Grace knows for certain that people need to escape from its grief and pain. To that end, she comes up with a plan to draw more customers to the bookstore.
This historical novel gives us a realistic picture of life in London during Germany’s bombing campaign known as the Blitz, and how the English people coped. The book is filled with hope, friendship, and heartwarming characters. Most of all, it speaks to the power of books to unite us. A wonderful and enjoyable read!
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