#bookreview The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

Bookseller synopsis:

August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and drawn curtains that she finds on her arrival are not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed–a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

My reading experience:

This is the story of Grace and Viv, best friends who move from Drayton to London just before the onset of war. The reader is immediately transported to that era with the help of Mrs Weatherford, the kindly lodging landlady who is also a bit of a busy-body.

Both girls are likeable young things, working hard in the simple lives they lead as the country is taken into war. While Viv gets her dream shoppers assistant job at Harrods, Grace becomes shoppers assistant at Primrose Hill bookshop.

When war changes their lives, the girls remain friends although separated by Viv’s ATS posting. The bookshop becomes Grace’s world, and the reluctant employer Mr Evans becomes a dear friend.

What I enjoyed in this story was the small scenes, when Grace leaves work late and had forgotten about blackout and we experience how disorientating and terrifying it was through her, or when George takes Grace to the Ritz for an early dinner and they are both surprised to see a vase of dahlias on the table. These observations colour the story and shape the characters. It’s very easy for WWII books such as this to focus on the romanticism – the Blitz spirit, the immediacy of life and love, the new opportunities for women, so it was refreshing to have this suggestion of realism woven through.

I was sorry to leave Grace and Viv, and Mrs Weatherford, reading slower and slower as I neared the end of the book. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have.

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