When Grace boarded the train for London from Drayton with her childhood friend, Viv, her heart was weighed down with the ache of loss. When her mother died that had been hard enough, but nothing prepared her for the discovery that the home she and her mother were living in belonged to her uncle. But he had announced that fact and his decision to move into the house with his wife and their five children and told Grace there was no room for her there. She and her mother had weathered the loss of her father whom Grace had lost before she was old enough to know him and now, she had nothing.
Her mother’s best friend, Mrs. Weatherford, had offered her a room in her home in London at no cost for a few months until she found employment right after her mother’s death, but Grace had turned her down. When her uncle’s announcement and decision left her homeless, she knew this was the only option open to her. After all, she and Viv had dreamed of moving to London and all the excitement they hoped to find from earliest childhood so maybe this would finally be their chance, and Viv was sure of it when she insisted on joining Grace in the move.
But this was 1939 and when they arrived at the train station near Mrs. Weatherford’s home, they found a very different London than they had imagined. The city was preparing for the possibility of war. Sandbags and signs advertised all manner of things they would need if Germany managed to defeat France. Grace felt a twinge of uncertainty as they lugged their suitcases down the street to what would be their new home, but Viv was buoyant as ever and sure they would find great jobs at some of the best department stores London had to offer.
But life doesn’t always turn out the way you hope.
The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin will pull you into the story of Grace, Viv, Mrs. Weatherford, and others whose names you will discover along the way. Viv will get her dream job at Harrods in London because of writing her own letter of recommendation, but when Grace refuses to allow Viv to write one for her she is left with few options. Mrs. Weatherford suggests she go to the Primrose Hill Books as she is aware the owner, Mr. Evans, wants to offer her a position in his shop. Grace has never been much of a reader and feels unsure of whether she can do what Mr. Evans might ask when she enters the small shop. What she doesn’t expect is an older man who gruffly tells her that he doesn’t need her help despite a shop dusty and in disarray.
Mrs. Weatherford is quite confident that Mr. Evans does want to hire her for six months and goes off to meet with him. It is just one glimpse into the character and heart of this woman, her mother’s best friend.
Sure enough Grace returns to the bookshop to find a grumpy Mr. Evans telling her she can be on trial for six months and then he will write her a letter of recommendation to move on to something else. With that unwelcome beginning, Grace begins to determine how to manage working for a man who tells her nothing about what he wants or needs to be done and clearly does not seem happy to have her in his employ.
As this WW II historical novel unfolds, the relationships will be tested and deepened as war inches closer, and bombs begin falling all around them on the streets of London. This fascinating story will take you from Grace and Viv’s arrival on the streets of London in 1939 through the end of the war in 1945. As each person’s story unfolds, you will see how they become a community of support to one another through loss, rationing, bombing and more. You will also discover what gives them courage to keep on hoping and a glimpse of what can give us hope as well.
“Books are what have brought us together. A love of stories within, the adventures they take us on, their glorious distraction in a time of strife. And a reminder that we will always have hope.”Madeline Martin