The Last Bookshop in London
Gentle. That’s one word I’d use to describe The Last Bookshop In London. Gentle, sincere, heartrending, informative – all for yet another World War II book. Surprising? Absolutely.
Having come off Erik Larson’s brilliant if heavy “The Splendid and the Vile,” I was ready to move on from war books. Then THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON was recommended to me as, almost, an antidote to those books about spies and bombs and the resistance. I’m so glad I listened.
We have Grace, a gentle soul with a sad family history, who ends up in London at the start of the war. She and her BFF board with an old friend of Grace’s mother, their goal being to get jobs. For lack of a reference, Grace takes a six-month position working under a curmudgeonly old bookseller at his ramshackle bookshop. On the surface, it’s a poor fit. Grace isn’t a reader.
The way in which she becomes one is the charm of this book. Likewise, the decency of the characters, some of whom are as quirky as the quirky characters in today’s “it” debut novels, but far more likable.
The Last Bookshop in London shows the war from the ground, through the eyes of our gentle Grace. We live through air raids, through nights in shelters and the devastation of the German blitz. We see humanity at its most relatable, at least for me, a very down-to-earth young woman living through a nightmare experience. And through it all she grows.
I won’t say more, other than to strongly recommend this book. While not edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, it is one of the more satisfying books I’ve read of late. Tears at the end. Oh yes.