The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

Published April 6, 2021 by HARLEQUIN (Hanover Square Press)

Audiobook published by Harlequin Audio, Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld

Fiction / Historical / WWII

About the Book: Inspired by the true World War II history of the only bookshop to survive the Blitz, a sweeping story of wartime loss, romance, and the enduring power of literature, perfect for fans of The Paris Wife and The Lilac Girls

London, autumn 1940: the Blitz has only just begun when Grace Bennett arrives in London to find the city she’s spent a lifetime dreaming about now cast in the clouds of war, and all of her plans unraveling at the seams. After accepting a job at a charming bookshop nestled in the heart of the city, a haven for literary-minded locals, she feels like a fish out of water – she’s never been much of a reader, after all.

As the bombs rain down on the city night after night, a devastating air raid leaves London’s literary center in ruins, and the libraries and shops of Paternoster Row are destroyed in a firestorm. But against all odds, one bookshop miraculously survives. Through blackouts and air raids, Grace continues staffing the shop, discovering a newfound comfort in the power of words and storytelling to unite her community in ways she never imagined, a power that triumphs even the darkest nights of war-torn London.

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5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I enjoy Historical Fiction and it is always interesting to see how the people who are keeping the home fires burning survive and keep busy. This was a really interesting story and I enjoyed it very much. Of course being a retired teacher librarian and self-professed bibliophile, a book that shares the importance and love of reading is sure to be a hit.

Grace Bennett has always wanted to move to the city, but moving to London when they are at the brink of war is not what she was expecting. She finds a job at an old and dusty bookstore, called Primrose Hill. The owner is a bit of a curmudgeon, but she perseveres in cleaning and organizing the old bookstore. Her family in London is her friend who moved with her and her landlady. As war looms closer, she deals with black-out curtains, air raids and fear. As she continues to work at Primrose Hill, she develops a love for books and reading, as well as developing a friendly relationship with one of their patrons, handsome, book loving George. Once Britain declares war things change and many Londoners become complacent, that is until German troops move into France and the British Troops limp home. London is now constantly living with bombing, death and destruction. Grace does what she can to keep spirits up using books and reading as well as doing her part working with the ARP.

There is so much to love about this book. The first is the book talk. Sharing books, reading aloud, using books to keep your mind off the war, bringing people together etc. The characters were amazing. Grace was such a strong character, with more guts than most people I know. She was so caring of everyone she came in contact with. All the other characters were well drawn. There were some that started off unlikable and even selfish, but by the end, they come around and are thankful for what others are trying to do. This small neighbourhood was close knit and caring, like a family. Madeline Martin’s writing was so descriptive. The bombings during The Blitz were so well detailed that I could almost hear them and see the residents huddled in the tube stations. The destruction was so vivid that I could almost picture it. There was a bit of a romance between Grace and George, but as he was at war, it was developed through letters. We don’t hear what was in the letters, but the first one was described letting us know what was left after it had been redacted and that was interesting in itself.

This was a well-written and developed story. It had great characters but also an interesting plot. The Last Bookshop in London has some poignant themes: perseverance, loyalty, found family, community, service to others/your country, loss, grief, sharing, and of course the power of books. It is obvious that the author did a great deal of research to make this book as historically accurate as possible and I appreciate that. I highly recommend this book to all.

I did a read/listen with this book and both were equally enjoyable. Usually, I prefer one or the other, but Saskia Maarleveld did such an excellent job with the narration that I enjoyed the audiobook as much as reading the the book when I was able to sit down and read it. Her voice is expressive with tone and inflection that makes it easy to differentiate the characters. Even the male voices were easy to identify. Her voice when describing the damage and devastation was full of emotion as if she was right there describing what she was seeing. A wonderful performance.

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About the Author: Madeline Martin is a USA TODAY bestselling author of historical romance novels filled with twists and turns, adventure, steamy romance, empowered heroines and the men who are strong enough to love them.

She lives in sunny Florida with Mr. Awesome (a man who truly deserves such a great name) and two wonderfully magical girls, known collectively as “the minions.” She enjoys working out (really to support her love of Nutella and wine), traveling and doing fun kid-like things with the minions.

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