Hello everyone! We are excited to be back again to share this amazing book, The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin. Further posts will be coming a bit more often hopefully. For us, it all depends on what is happening in our lives. Ashli lives with chronic pain and fatigue and Erin has two amazing kids that keep her on her toes. But this blog keeps us reading and we love getting to share our new favourite books with all of you lovely readers. Without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s new release!
“Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.
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 blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old book shop 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.”
A: I finally get to start the conversation again! Probably because I read The Last Bookshop in London as an advanced reader copy sooo long ago and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it since. Which is exactly why Erin read it and we are here to discuss it with you all!
A: So this about a young woman who moves to London literally days before the Blitz starts in WW2. She isn’t a reader but she needs a job because she decided not to forge a letter of recommendation in order to get into a department store like her friend. The people that her and her friend are staying with suggest the shop and it changes her life. While I was really put out that Grace wasn’t a reader before she started working at Primrose Hill Bookshop, I will admit that it was refreshing to have that perspective and get to watch her love for books grow.
E: I remember at the start of the novel being put off that she didn't love books. It's hard to comprehend people that don't have books in their lives when it's such a big part of ours. I loved reading her journey to having her appreciate the power of story.
A: We do need to talk about the landlord’s son’s job at Harrods Department Store. How the heck did they get baby elephants and stuff up to the fourth floor??? I knew that Harrods sold exotic pets since Christian the famous lion came from there and such but I still find it insane that people didn’t even think twice about it all. For the readers who don’t know… Harrods doesn’t sell pets at all any more. Just pet supplies that cost a mint.
E: That was totally bizarre! How funny that that was “normal”. If that happened now there would be uproar about the fair treatment of animals etc. I would hope at least.
A: I don’t know about you all, but I think that it would be the most soothing thing to have story time in the bunker during the raids. I’m not sure how Grace handled everything she did from running the bookstore to reading aloud to patrolling the streets at night. But I would have been a regular at her readings for sure.
E: She had such a mother energy I can totally agree with you that it would have been soothing at that time. I know there’s the cliche saying about Keep Calm and Carry On, but I feel like Grace really embodied that philosophy.
A: The love affair between Grace and her soldier was so sweet. Especially with their relationship beginning by him sharing his favourite book with her. My boyfriend Grant and I got talking because of our shared love of Critical Role (a D&D play stream that I really recommend to anyone who loves good adventure fantasy stories). I’m a firm believer that the right person will come along because they can either get you excited about something or already share that excitement and it was so sweet to see that with Grace and her beau.
E: Coming off of reading A Court of Silver Flames, this love story was like you said, so sweet. The tenderness and openness they had together was really refreshing. Maybe it has something to do with the time period, and that idea that he’s a soldier and he may not be with her soon. It makes the romance however sweet, a little sad just because you don't know if they’ll both be alive at the end.
A: I want to use this book to talk about general thoughts about the era and what we are seeing now in the world with the pandemic. We are basically at war with an invisible, evolving enemy. At least with our quarantine time we don’t have to black out our windows or worry about bombs dropping. But it’s still scary and I am glad that I don’t have a job that puts me completely in danger like Grace did but I respect those who do put themselves on the lines like our medical staff.
E: This book so easily parallels what's going on in the world right now, albeit in a totally different circumstance. I wonder if we would have the same tenacity that the Brits did during the Blitz. In a lot of ways it doesn't feel the same energetically. Maybe that's because they had an enemy they could see. We’re fighting a virus and there isn't really going to be a win-lose situation but an eventual stalemate where we learn to live with the virus and maybe it becomes a nuisance like the flu rather than a pandemic. Living for over a year in pandemic life has been so taxing on communities and it's hard to see people turn against each other when there should be support like what we see in this book.
A: I’ve read way too many WW2 historical fiction books in my life. It’s actually becoming a chore to find literature that is really unique. I was glad to have found The Last Bookshop in London because it was just different enough to capture my attention and keep me reading. If anyone is looking for recommendations to read after this one, I definitely recommend The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan. It also talks more about general life during the war rather than the obvious topics of interest. Both The Last Bookshop in London and The Kitchen Front are great breathers from the more serious/ heartbreaking WW2 literature.
E: Totally agree, I've read a lot of WW2 literature. This definitely stood out to me and felt refreshing. It reminded me a bit of my beloved “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” as well as “Dear Mrs. Bird. It's like there’s a positivity to the war or a lightness these books bring that allow you to see the goodness of humanity and how they rally the spirit. I really enjoyed Last Bookshop and I’m glad you wouldn’t stop nagging me to read it.