Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Book Review: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War IIThe Last Bookshop in London. Madeline Martin. Hanover Square Press (2021). 320 pages. Genre: Historical Fiction.

First Line: "August 1939. London, England. Grace Bennett had always dreamed of someday living in London."

Summary:  Grace and her best friend Viv have finally arrived in London.  After years of dreaming of one day living there, that day has arrived.  They will be renting a room from a childhood friend of Grace's mother.  Mrs. Weatherford offered the room to Grace over a year ago, just after her mother passed away.  Grace wasn't ready to relocate then, but she is eager to start a new adventure now.  The first task the girls must complete is obtaining a job.  They have high hopes of getting work in a department store.  However, in order to get a job in a department store one needs a letter of recommendation.  Unfortunately, Grace's uncle refused to give her one even though she had worked for him for a year. 

Mrs. Weatherford uses her powers of persuasion to get Grace a job at Primrose Hill Books.  The owner, Mr. Evans, insists he doesn't need an assistant, but there is no refusing Mrs. Weatherford.  Mr. Evans agrees to allow Grace to work for him for six months, at the end of which he will give her a letter of recommendation.  Grace accepts and figures she can do anything for six months.  As Grace shows up day after day, she begins to slowly transform the bookshop.  As customers increase, Mr. Evans can't help but acknowledge the positive changes Grace has made.  

As war descends on London, many are scared and uncertain.  The Bookshop and the books it contains slowly become a lifeline to many in the nearby neighborhoods.  

My thoughts:  I absolutely loved this book!  It is such a good story full of good people in the midst of the devastation of war.  

Grace is such a likeable character.  She has been through some difficulties, but is often an encouragement to others.  She is industrious and keeps herself busy making things better wherever she finds herself.  She is full of compassion and empathy, often giving others the benefit of the doubt. She willingly gives up her own wants or comforts in order to help someone else. 

Mrs. Weatherford is a great character as well.  She is a true homemaker, who works hard to make her home a shelter for whoever comes her way.  Her home is tidy and clean.  She fixes regular, delicious meals.  And she finds time to volunteer.  She often knows what others need even before they do.  She is the mother figure Grace needs.

Mr. Evans is at first a bit distant and cold.  However, it doesn't take him long to warm up to Grace.  When he fails to give her any direction while she is at the shop, Grace sets out to tidy things up.  Mr. Evans grumbles about this, but he soon sees the good in it. He is a man of few words, but when he does speak his words are meaningful and often give Grace the encouragement she desperately needs.  I especially appreciated the way Mr. Evans reminds Grace that helping others doesn't always have to be in big things, but that it is often the small kindness done to others that are the most helpful.  Mr. Evans becomes the father Grace doesn't have. 

The author's descriptions of the bombings in London from the viewpoint of the citizens made me feel like I was there.  I could imagine the fear they must have felt, but also the apathy after a few false alarms.  I appreciated learning more about what those days were like for the residents of London.

This story contains much loss and grief.  However, hope is never far behind.  Grief is dealt with realistically, showing how loss and devastation takes a toll on a person's soul.  However, human beings are incredibly resilient and this is also portrayed well in the novel.  

The setting of the Bookshop and the role that books played in so many lives was delightful.  

"But in a world as damaged and gray as theirs was now, she would take every speck of pleasure where it could be found.  And much pleasure was to be had in reading."

There is a lot to like in The Last Bookshop in London.  It will be one of my favorite reads of the year and I highly recommend it.


"Light spilled in from the window above the sink and at the back door, filtering in through parted gauzy white curtains.  Everything was as pristine in her narrow kitchen as it had been in the entryway.  The sun shone off clean white countertops, and a few dishes had been neatly set in a rack to dry.  Towels the color of lemons were draped on a rack, and the scent of whatever she was cooking was even more tantalizing."

"'Reading is...' His brows knit together and then his forehead smoothed as the right words appeared to dawn on him. 'It's going somewhere without ever taking a train or ship, an unveiling of new, incredible worlds. It's living a life you weren't born into and a chance to see everything colored by someone else's perspective.  It's learning without having to face consequences of failures, and how best to succeed.'"

"You can't save the world, but keep trying in any small way you can."


  1. This sounds like a very good book. I'm putting it on my TBR list. Thanks for the great review.

  2. I definitely want to read this book. Thanks for the review, Gretchen!

    1. You are welcome, Cathy! I think you would enjoy it.