Book Review: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

by Becky
Copy of The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin leaning against a stack of classic literature.

The Summary

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 drawn curtains that she finds on her arrival are not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop 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.

Thankfully, the directions Mrs. Weatherford had sent in her last correspondence had been detailed and easy to follow. What had been missing from the account, however, were all the signs of war.

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Why I Chose This Book

I didn’t choose this book! My best friend happens to manage a book blog – this one, in fact! – and she sent me this title as a gift! She knows me well. This novel combines my favorite genre of historical fiction, my favorite time period (WWII) and a dusty old bookshop. What could be better!

To be clear, I would have picked this book up myself for the reasons above and more. I had not read a Madeline Martin work yet, and as she writes romance and historical fiction…that’s surprising! I am also always on the lookout for different perspectives on WWII, and this was the first time I can remember reading a title focused on The Blitz in London. Ok, ok. I also would have been totally sucked in by the cover art. There I said it!

Now she would experience the adventure that had led him into a lifetime of reading. She only hoped those pages might offer her a similar passion. And she hoped even more fervently for the possibility of seeing him again to return the volume and discuss its contents.

My Review

I have a toddler and have not been prioritizing my reading time as of late. So with this title, I started out reading one chapter a night just to get back into it. That lasted for…maybe a week. I got sucked into the story and had to force myself to break up the remainder of the book into two nights so I could actually get some shut eye!

Martin’s descriptions were written in such a way that I was left haunted by the scenes the characters were experiencing. That said, she didn’t use gory or graphic details to accomplish this which I appreciated. It’s as if she stirred my imagination through suggestions and allowed my mind to fill in the rest. The anchors of fact blended beautifully with the fictional story making for relatable characters and an enjoyable read.

He removed his hand and straightened. “It doesn’t matter how you fight, but that you never, never stop.”

Recommendation

This is a great, character-driven novel that delves into what life was like during The Blitz in London. While there is a romantic component, I would steer the romance reader elsewhere first as I felt the real highlights were the unique bonds of friendship and camaraderie, even in the darkest of times. The book also has an overall sense of loss and sorrow that left my empathetic self feeling a bit down occasionally. This leads to a more impactful ending, but it is a tale of war and there is no sugar coating the immense tragedy of those times. To me, the ideal reader for The Last Bookshop in London is someone interested in war stories depicting civilian life.

There was a special scent to paper and ink, indescribable and unknown to anyone but a true reader. She brought the book to her face, closed her eyes and breathed in that wonderful smell.

Discussion Questions

  1. Grace was constantly putting others before herself. When have you found yourself in a position where you have to put others first? What did you learn about yourself through that process?
  2. During the pandemic we currently find ourselves in, it is good to have distractions and to remain hopeful. How do or how can you keep “fighting?” There is no wrong answer.
  3. Which of the losses in this book resonated most or made you feel most distinctly?
  4. What is your Last Bookshop? Where have you felt or currently feel that sense of belonging and community?
  5. This book is ultimately a love letter to literature and the power it has. How has reading or a particular title made an impact on your life?
  6. If you were going to encourage someone’s love of reading and/or literature, which book or author would you recommend?

About Madeline Martin

Madeline Martin is the New York Times and international bestselling author of The Last Bookshop in London as well as historical romance that spans from medieval castles to regency ballrooms.

Stay posted for her next WWII historical fiction coming out in 2022!

She lives in sunny Florida with her two daughters (known collectively as the minions), one incredibly spoiled cat and a man so wonderful he’s been dubbed Mr. Awesome. She is a die-hard history lover who will happily lose herself in research any day. When she’s not writing, researching or ‘moming’, you can find her spending time with her family at Disney or sneaking a couple spoonfuls of Nutella while giggling over cat videos. She also loves to travel and attributes her love of history to having spent most of her childhood as an Army brat in Germany.

Find out more about Madeline at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.

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