The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin is a lovely tribute to the people of London who survived the Blitz during World War II. The story emphasizes what true fighters Londoners were during this horrific time. Many of them had two jobs, first their regular employment, and second their numerous volunteer jobs such as firefighting, searching for survivors, bomb squads, and medical assistance.
The heroine of The Last Bookshop in London is Grace Bennett. She moves to London with her best friend, Viv, in 1939 prior to the start of the war. The two women live with Grace’s late mother’s best friend, Mrs. Weatherford, and her son, Colin. While Grace had worked tirelessly in her Uncle’s shop in the country, he refuses to give her the necessary letter of recommendation to obtain a department store position. Based upon Mrs. Weatherford’s insistence with the owner, Grace gets a job for six months at Primrose Hill Books. While Grace is not a reader, she dedicates herself to cleaning up and organizing the messy store in hopes of getting the much-needed letter of recommendation so she can go work with Viv at Harrods.
A handsome customer named George explains to Grace the magic of reading and gives her his much-loved copy of The Count of Monte Cristo before leaving for war. Grace soon becomes an avid reader and the business at the bookshop grows. She and George correspond when possible during the war and bond over their love of books. Grace volunteers three nights a week as an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) warden, a job many deem unsuitable for a woman. Grace becomes known for her reading of books inside the local tube station during air raids. The struggles she faces in the midst of the destruction sometimes seem overwhelming. But Grace, like most Londoners, keeps calm and carries on.
5-Stars. Book club recommended. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thanks to Hanover Square Press/Harper-Collins for my advanced reader copy in exchange for a review. This novel will be on sale on April 20, 2021.
On her website, the author, Madeline Martin, describes her writing style as follows: “I write books filled with twists and turns, adventure, steamy romance, empowered heroines and the men who are strong enough to love them.” Since I don’t normally read steamy romance novels, I was hesitant to request this book, which is her first World War II historical fiction. I am so glad I did. This charming book does not fit her usual writing style.