In the recent times I have witnessed a deluge of books set during World War II but what matters the most to me is if the story will stay with me for eons to come. If The Paris Library penned by Janet Skeslien Charles glorified the role of librarians of Paris during the World War II, The last bookshop in London by Madeline Martin, spelled out the role reading sessions played in the life of Londoners during the trying times.

Grace, alongwith her friend Viv has moved to London to live with her mother’s friend, Mrs. Weatherford. A small town girl, she has always dreamt of living like a Londoner. But these are difficult times. The war is about to happen. People are busy stocking up the ration. There’s an ambiance of trepidation all around. With a lot of hesitation, Grace begins working at Primrose hill bookstore and discovers her passion for books. She applies her skills and accumen to make the bookstore one of London’s most loved bookstores. During the war this bookshop becomes a mark of courage and determination.

The story slowly grows on you. The elements interspersed are subtle. There are mentions of bombings, blood shed, death, destruction but it gradually settles down in your gut making sure that the imagery, the feelings don’t leave you for long. The characters are fleshed out deftly making them the personification of the era. Grace, Mrs. Weatherford, George, Mr. Evans, Mrsm Nesbitt, Viv, Mr. Stokes, all have something valuable to offer to this story.

The charm of this story is definitely the books it mentions. The author doesn’t fleetingly mention the books but reiterates us what impact it had on Grace and her listeners. The reading sessions Grace conducts adds a value in the lives of the listeners. When the world has lost hope books come to their rescue.

Books touch the lives of the readers in a way no human can. A non-reader, Grace, when turns into a reader and helps rescue books from the Blitz, or how every person Grace knew and had come to love vanish into oblivion one after the other, your heart melts. You are torn into a thousand pieces upon learning the dance of death the war caused. But the author’s penmanship makes sure that the brutality doesn’t dwell on our minds much longer. Rather, she exalts the position of books in the lives of terror stricken people. She stresses every step of the way how books can be your best buddies and how books can touch and transform lives.

There’s much to be felt from this book. It isn’t meant to be read and forgotten; but reminisced, reiterated and recommended to every book lover out there.

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