Wednesday, May 5, 2021


Grace Bennet and her friend Viv are beyond excited to have finally escaped their small village of Drayton for the bright lights of London in August 1939.  Friends since childhood, they had always dreamed of more exciting lives than what Drayton could offer.  When Grace's mother dies, she is told to leave the house she as lived in all her life and this is a good reason to fulfil her dream of moving to the big city.  Luckily, her mother's best friend, Mrs. Weatherford, has always offered Grace a place to stay if she ever comes to London. 

Grace and Viv are welcomed excitedly by Mrs. Weatherford and her son Colin.  Although Colin is a few years younger than the girls, Grace has known him since childhood.  He works at Harrods in the "Pet Kingdom" department (which seems, sadly to have become extinct in more recent times).  Colin helps Viv to get a job at Harrods, and Grace is told Mrs. Weatherford has arranged a job for her at Primrose Hill Books, owned by her friend Mr. Evans.  Grace, having never had much spare time, isn't a reader, but with no other prospects, she agrees to the job until she can find something better.

The store turns out to be very dusty and disorganized, so Grace immediately sets out to do what she can to make the shop more appealing to customers.  Having worked in her uncle's small store for most of her life, she knows a thing or two about enticing people into the store and persuading them to buy.  Mr. Evans doesn't put up much resistance to this new plan, and soon the store is very popular.  Unfortunately, just as Grace is settling in to her new life, World War II breaks out.  

Having survived the first war, Mrs. Weatherford is calm in the face of air raid sirens.  Colin has constructed a bomb shelter in the back yard, so everyone in their small house has a place to go when needed.  Mrs. W is terrified that gentle Colin will be drafted, and soon enough, this happens.  Not long afterward, Viv also decides to volunteer and moves away for training.  Grace has also met a very interesting and handsome customer, George Anderson, but he is also called away to serve.  Left somewhat alone, Grace volunteers to be a local Air Raid Warden.  After her days working at the bookshop, Grace spends her nights patrolling the neighborhood, assisting people to shelters, putting out small fires, and helping to look for survivors after bombings.

As the title suggests, soon Mr. Evans's bookshop is one of the few that hasn't suffered extreme bomb damage, and therefore becomes something of a refuge for booklovers.  Grace helps to spread her newfound love of literature to others by reading aloud in bomb shelters and the bookstore, drawing even more crowds.

The book does a very good job of showcasing the lives of regular people during WWII. Dealing with rationing, awaiting the next air raid siren, and emerging to find dead bodies and destroyed buildings was a daily part of the lives of Londoners for many years.  The fact that the bookshop was a central place for people to gather and find some distraction from the events taking place around them makes the story very enjoyable.  Perhaps things were very different in those days, but I did find it a bit of a stretch that apparently very, very few people were familiar with the works of Dickens, Austen, Eliot, etc. but it was heartening that once exposed to those classics, everyone embraced them enthusiastically! 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Last Bookshop in London from NetGalley in exchange for this review


About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

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