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 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.
Madeline Martin is a New York Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling author of historical fiction and historical romance with books that have been translated into over twenty different languages.
She lives in sunny Florida with her two daughters (known collectively as the minions), two incredibly spoiled cats 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 laughing over cat videos. She also loves research and travel, attributing her fascination with history to having spent most of her childhood as an Army brat in Germany.
Check out her website for book club visits, reader guides for her historical fiction, upcoming events, book news and more: https://madelinemartin.com
I guess I'm going to have to use a word that I see floating around GR's every now and then. Yes, I'm an outlier. I just don't get the hype around this one.
I read a lot of historical fiction and WWII novels are a particular favourite. This one was just a bland storyline for me. I liked that it was set in London and told the story about the average person and how they coped during the war and the blitz. Too bad there wasn't a little more oomph!
The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin is a lovely tribute to the people of London who survived the Blitz during World War II. The story emphasizes what true fighters Londoners were during this horrific time. Many of them had two jobs, first their regular employment, and second their numerous volunteer jobs such as firefighting, searching for survivors, bomb squads, and medical assistance.
The heroine of The Last Bookshop in London is Grace Bennett. She moves to London with her best friend, Viv, in 1939 prior to the start of the war. The two women live with Grace’s late mother’s best friend, Mrs. Weatherford, and her son, Colin. While Grace had worked tirelessly in her Uncle’s shop in the country, he refuses to give her the necessary letter of recommendation to obtain a department store position. Based upon Mrs. Weatherford’s insistence with the owner, Grace gets a job for six months at Primrose Hill Books. While Grace is not a reader, she dedicates herself to cleaning up and organizing the messy store in hopes of getting the much-needed letter of recommendation so she can go work with Viv at Harrods.
A handsome customer named George explains to Grace the magic of reading and gives her his much-loved copy of The Count of Monte Cristo prior to leaving for war. Grace soon becomes an avid reader and the business at the bookshop grows. She and George correspond when possible during the war and bond over their love of books. Grace volunteers three nights a week as an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) warden, a job many deem unsuitable for a woman. Grace becomes known for her reading of books inside the local tube station during air raids. The struggles she faces in the midst of the destruction sometimes seem overwhelming. But Grace, like most Londoners, keeps calm and carries on.
On her website, the author, Madeline Martin, describes her writing style as follows: “I write books filled with twists and turns, adventure, steamy romance, empowered heroines and the men who are strong enough to love them.” Since I don’t normally read steamy romance novels, I was hesitant to request this book, which is her first World War II historical fiction. I am so glad I did. This charming book does not fit her usual writing style.
5-Stars. Book club recommended. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thanks to Hanover Square Press/Harper-Collins for my advanced reader copy in exchange for a review. This novel will be on sale on April 20, 2021.
This is WWII Historical Fiction. This was a solid 3 stars for me. I liked the idea behind the last bookshop in London. Grace, the MC, kind of fell into working there and was able to breathe life back into the store. She was also a strong character which was nice to see. And she had a strong moral compass.
The one thing that kept this from being 4 stars was the overly sweet nature of so many elements. Even though I liked the MC, she was just a little too "cotton candy" for me. Plus add in the polite children, adopting orphans, falling in love with Mr. Perfect, having so many warm and fuzzy parent like figures in life and Grace's King Midas touch. It was sprinkled liberally over everything. If this were a donut then fine....bring on the sprinkles, powdered sugar and the glaze, but it's not. So 3 stars.
4.5 stars: Can a war story be a feel-good story? Yes! The proof? This book!
I'm not saying it's not a sad story, but it's heartwarming to see how people can be compassionate when times are hard and how books have the power to make us escape.
The plot was a bit predictable, but the details about the life in London during the Blitz were very interesting without being too heavy. Plus, the title isn't misleading : there is a lot of focus on the bookshop.
My verdict: I recommend it!
I'm not that much into historical fiction... But, you know, this one is about a bookshop, so I had to pick it up!😁📖
This lovely story was inspired by the few bookshops to survive the Blitz. Basically, it followed the typical life of a 20-something woman during the first years of WWII in London.
Why I enjoyed this book:
1. I really liked Grace Bennett, the protagonist! This particular "girl works in a bookshop/library - girl saves said bookshop/library" trope actually worked for me! After being gifted a book, Grace goes from being a non-reader to voraciously reading during her spare time. She also begins to share her love of particular books as she holds read-alouds during air raids and also during peaceful times at the bookshop. How can a reader like me not feel a kinship to Grace? Therefore, I looked forward to hearing about her work life at Primrose Hill Bookshop, her volunteer work as an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) warden, and her personal life with her friends, her acquaintances, and her budding love interest. Btw, Mrs. Weatherford was another character I greatly admired with her "take charge' attitude!
2. Author Madeline Martin plausibly injected various components of life in London during WWII within this story. Although I remember a former teacher colleague recalling, how as a child in England during the war, that she had to carry a gas mask to school and that vegetables were to be grown instead of lawns and flowers, I did learn more about the children's evacuations, Anderson (Andy) bomb shelters, household preparations for possible bombings, air raids, anti-gas ointment, Christmas celebrations, victory gardens, and the BBC radio competition called "The Kitchen Front". Some of these references reminded me of some books on my WTR list (e.g. The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen and The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan!)
3. Narrator Saskia Maarleveld's British accent really lent authenticity to this story!
Overall, this story had its share of realistic ups and downs during this difficult period in time, with the community rallying around each other through the love of books.
Grace and Viv left their small home town of Drayton and moved to London to get away from an uncle and overbearing parents. They had no idea things would get as bad as they did.
Grace found a job in a bookstore....how fun to arrive in London and to work in a bookshop. Viv worked as a sales clerk at Harrod’s.
The funny thing was that Grace had no love of books, but that was the only job she could find since war was about to break out. She had to deal with the grumpy shop owner, but she made the best of the situation.
A handsome, helpful customer, George, that visited the book shop and smiled at Grace made the shop more bearable. He was also helpful and gave Grace ideas about getting the shop organized after all these years.
Grace brought new life and more business to Primrose Hill Books. Her organization had customers buying more and staying longer. She was a success and knew she would get a wonderful letter of recommendation if she could last for her required six months.
All things weren’t great, though. The children in London were taken from their parents and sent to the country, and George and Colin, their landlady’s son, were sent off to war leaving Grace, Viv, and Mrs. Weatherford alone.
As the women are alone, Grace learns the beauty of books and how they can take you to another place and keep the story with you.
Viv learns that she can’t work at Harrod’s when she knows other women are doing things for their country.
Mrs. Weatherford learns to cope with her son being gone and with helping others while continuing to take care of Grace.
Readers will hear of the London bombings which I didn’t know were so often and so devastating, but for the most part bookworms will not want to miss THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON.
It is a must read because of the bookshop setting, London, and the endearing characters. The characters are just so heartwarming and genuine.
This book would definitely be good for a reluctant reader because Grace shares how she turned from a non-reader to one who can’t stop reading and recommending and turning others into readers and book lovers.
THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON is a lovely, lovely read and a tribute to mankind in times of need.
You will need some tissues and many ways to tell everyone how wonderful this book is. 5/5
This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON is my kind of cuppa: The Blitz, lit, friendship, romance, and gutsy Brits who keep calm and carry on through constant bombings. Based on a true story, which shows that when all else fails, books and friends radiate hope in darkness. Especially apt during COVID times.
5 of 5 Stars Pub Date 20 Apr 2021 #TheLastBookshopinLondon #NetGalley
Thanks to the author, HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S, and NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine.
Interesting story idea and great cover but the characterizations were cliched and the story, in spite of it's setting, was rather boring. This book also reads American rather than British. (I checked and the author is American) If you like your World War II stories dull and your characters Saccharine sweet you'll enjoy this one more than I did.
This novel is a pretty short historical fiction, but it takes you on an emotional roller coaster. The characters are charming and endearing. The main character Grace is very likable, but doesn’t really have any flaws. The novel has calamities, but it doesn’t have much conflict in the plot.
The Last Bookshop in London tells the story of Grace who moves to London after losing her mother. While not being a reader, she happens to find work at a bookshop. She soon becomes an avid reader and uses the power of books to bring her community together. Grace also works an an aid raid protection (ARP) warden during the Blitz. She shows so much bravery and courage as London was continuously bombed and incinerated.
I hadn’t read a book about the London Blitz. It was both sad and interesting to learn about. Londoners were so tough during this time as devastating loss stuck them. They came together to help one another in times of need. This book showed that a little bit of kindness and compassion go a long way.
Charming and uplifting, The Last Bookshop in London shows the beauty of what happens when people reach outside themselves and help others. With excellent research, Madeline Martin brings World War II London to life, and her characters are rich and varied. This novel has become a New York Times and USA Today bestseller with good reason. For my more sensitive readers – please note this is a clean read – enjoy!
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book indeed despite the obvious sadness of course being set in London, England during the blitz of WW2. However I was quite impressed at how so many characters showed kindness and compassion to one another during a devastating time to be living in. Their resilience and courage was no doubt evident as they worked together in helping others to survive and not just cower under Germany's siege! The author didn't use off color language nor took God's name which I was pleased with, showing how a book doesn't need that in order to be an excellent read.
Another aspect that stood out especially was how the kindly, older book shop owner taught Grace that often when people are mean and bitter, it was because they had been hurt themselves previously. She viewed others who had been nasty to her then with eyes of compassion instead of spitefulness as she extended kindness and graciousness towards so many. Her character truly made a difference in many other's lives, even though she hadn't always realized her wonderful impact until later! She didn't repay rotten actions but was merciful...a trait we could learn from.
While not classified as a Christian book per say, it definitely portrayed a admirable Christian like viewpoint and wonderful lessons as well as being a wholesome, marvelous story:) I would definitely recommend this and would gladly read another by this author!
I listened to the audio CD of The Last Bookshop in London:A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin. It was expertly narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. I have listened to Saskia Maarleveld narrate other audiobooks and audio CD’s and have never been disappointed in her performances including her performance on this one. The Last Bookshop in London was a well researched historical novel that portrayed the devastating effects The Blitz had on the city of London and on its ordinary average citizen. It was rich in details describing the insurmountable damage London underwent and the numerous deaths that occurred as a result. Through all their despair and fear, the one thing that came to sustain Londoners was books. The people of London, both young, old, rich or poor, were able to rise above their fears and find hope through books even in the darkest of times. The characters were well developed with some more likable than others.
In August 1939, two young women who happened to be best friends, made their way to London in search of interesting jobs that could only be found in a city like London. Grace Bennett had recently experienced the death of her mother, and her friend Viv, had high hopes for living an exciting life in London. They were greeted with the sight of blackout curtains and signs of the start of World War II. Mrs. Weatherford, Grace’s mother’s good friend, provided the women with a warm, cozy and friendly place to live. Since Grace arrived in London without any letter of reference she was coerced into accepting a job at Primrose Hill Book Store. It was a dusty old bookshop with a crotchety old owner who seemed to want no part of hiring Grace at first. Working in a bookshop was the last job Grace would have ever imagined for herself. She knew nothing about books and Grace rarely if ever read any books. Grace and the owner came to an understanding. Grace would work at Primrose Hill for six months after which time she would receive a letter of reference and be free to pursue any job she wished. Grace decided to make the best of her situation and started to develop ideas about how she could improve this quiet and dusty bookshop. Then one day, a very handsome and charming male customer, offered to help her with ideas about how she could improve Primrose Hill. That male customer would become someone that Grace would come to love. He also introduced her to the book, The Count of Monte Cristo. Grace’s life was about to change drastically. With the help of that encounter, Grace found a purpose to her life. She reorganized Primrose Hill and began to use advertising to attract more customers. Grace began to volunteer to help her fellow Londoners find safety during air raids. Perhaps the biggest change for Grace was her new passion for reading. She was now able to make suggestions to customers seeking reading material. Somehow, Grace began reading to audiences at the bookstore or during air raids. People sought her out and were in awe of her ability to bring books to life and allow them to escape from the terrors of war even if it was only a temporary escape. Grace and the owner of the bookshop ended up developing a relationship that was based on mutual respect, caring and friendship. Grace ended up looking upon him as a father figure. She grew very close to him and him to her. Grace tirelessly gave all she could to help others. She was a selfless person with a big heart.
The Last Bookshop in London was the first book that I have read by Madeline Martin. I hope she decides to write more historical fiction novels because this one was poignant, emotional and captivating. It was about friendships, love, survival, hope, bravery, romance, life, purpose, resilience, courage and tragedy. The Last Bookshop in London was beautifully written and touched upon an aspect of World War II that has not been written about a lot. Told from the point of view of Londoners, it was easy to imagine the fear, sadness, tragedy, frustration and trauma they must have been feeling at this time during their history. Having a true passion for reading, I really connected with this book. I really enjoyed reading this book and recommend it very highly.
This book was so much more then I expected. I absolutely loved the story line and all the incredible characters. Lately I seem to have a passion to read about bookstores and the adventures of the books.
Loved this story of the daily sacrifices and small kindnesses that make life beautiful. Some of my favorite scenes: The bookseller collecting books rescued from Nazi book burnings so no voices would be silenced. The young woman reading Middlemarch to folks cowering in the tube during a bombing raid. An RAF pilot carrying on a courtship by sending favorite novels to his intended. A charming, worthwhile, uplifting story! Top Pick!
I listened to this story via Hoopla, an app which I recently discovered. Hoopla has even more ebooks & audiobooks available to borrow with my library card. Yay!
We have read many books about heroes from WW II. They are inspiring and make us wonder what we would do if there were a national crisis. What we often forget is the role ordinary people play in helping their neighbors and keeping up morale. Grace Bennett is one of those people. When she came to London she was riding the coattails of her friend Viv. She was not a reader, but the bookshop job was available so she took it. Then war strikes and the air raids begin. In the midst of the tumult of war and the blitz, Grace Bennett shines. When she begins reading 'Middlemarch' aloud to fellow Londoners while taking shelter in the train station I had to grab my tissues. What a poignant reminder of the power of books! We can't all be a Nancy Wake ('Code Name Helene' by Ariel Lawhon) or a Virginia Hall ('The Invisible Woman' by Erika Rebuck), but we can be a Grace Bennett. We can show up. We can look out for our neighbors. We can be a light.
Thank you to Hanover Square and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
One of the most precious things I get to do with my husband is read books. We love to sit in our favorite places and read together. We’re our own special book club. This novel kept reminding me of this because in this people talk, read and gathered because of books. You see, a book shares things with us. It changes us, transports us into something else. Books makes me grateful, sometimes sad, but always grateful. This all happened during the war in London and it was a wonderful story. I highly recommend it. The audiobook was done very well. This was a library loan from my local library. Happy Reading.
All the stars! ALL THE STARS!! This book just took my heart out of my chest, stomped on it and put it back. Sad tears and some happy tears. There are not enough WW2 books centered on ordinary people. Not everyone was a spy in WW2. More books like this, please!
This is the first book I have read by Madeline Martin. I am very impressed and will add her to my list of authors to follow. This is a historical fiction that takes place in London in 1939 to 1941. I have a personal interest in the London Blitz as most of my mother’s family died when a bomb hit their house in London.
This is a story about ordinary people rising to the occasion and managing through adversity. They helped their neighbors and did what the English have always done calmly carrying on through it all. This is also a story about the power of books and the importance of a local bookshop. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.
I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is eight hours and thirteen minutes. Saskia Maarleveld does an excellent job narrating the book.
This uplifting novel of WWII contains no spies, battles, or decorated war heroes. Instead, this is a warm and hopeful novel of the perseverance of Londoners during the worst of the Blitz. It is 1939 and Grace Bennett, along with her best friend Viv, have escaped from their humdrum lives in rural England to conquer London. Settled in with Mrs. Weatherford, an old friend of Grace’s mother, they are looking for a new life of glamour and adventure. Viv soon lands the job she has craved at Harrod’s, but without the much hoped for reference from her uncle, Grace must take a six-month position at a bookstore that Mrs. Weatherford has arranged for her.
Faced with the recalcitrant Mr. Evans, owner of the Primrose Hill bookshop, Grace soon puts to use the skills she honed at her uncle’s store to bring some order and much needed cleanliness to the disorganized and neglected stacks of books she finds herself faced with. Not a reader herself, she is at a loss as to what to recommend to the devoted cliental she encounters. This soon changes when she makes the acquaintance of a handsome young man who introduces her to the Count of Monte Cristo. When the bombs start dropping on London, Grace finds herself reading aloud to her fellow shell-shocked neighbors in the underground during the bombing raids. Eventually, they follow her to the store to hear more of the stories she reads aloud.
Inspired by real events, this heart-warming story is a delight to read. Depicting quiet triumph or tragedy, and the universal need of us all to find friendship, hope and a place where we can make a difference. This is a story that will leave the reader with a few tears, but still a feeling of warmth.
Thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for the e-ARC.
With so many books set in this period, finding a new hook must be challenging, but Madeline Martin succeeds with her charming characters and bookshop setting. The hardships of wartime London and the tragedy of loss are balanced by the courage, compassion, and grace of everyday citizens.
The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin provides a look inside London during the Blitz by German bombers and the impact on the local population. 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, as London prepares for war and 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. In addition she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop in the heart of London but giver her limited work experience, this was one of the few opportunities she found available to her. 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.
As time goes on and the war continues she finds herself growing fond of the bookshop clientele as well as the gruff old owner who will give her a recommendation for a better job after she finishes working there for 6-months. She almost immediately begins to leave her mark with improvements to the look and organization of the shop and even develops her own love of reading and sharing stories during the bombings.
I absolutely loved this book. I borrowed a library copy and after finishing I immediately bought a copy for my own bookshelf. There’s just so many golden nuggets of inspiration between its pages.
Heroine Grace Bennett’s story is centered around a small, much older bookshop, Primrose Hill Books, during wartime London. This is a story of hope and courage during the darkest of days. Grace and her best friend move to London, but without any references Grace has to take the only job offered - a clerk at a bookstore. The problem she faces at her new job is she’s not a reader. She meets a customer George who introduces her to The Count of Monte Cristo. From there she goes on to more books, finding pleasure in reading and enjoying George’s frequent visits to the bookshop. Then Britain declares war on Germany. George is a pilot and is called into service. Through written letters, a romance blooms between Grace and George.
I loved the many endearments of friendship, kindness, generosity and encouragement - all to be found through this one small bookshop, and it’s new community of readers brought on by war. They are an entity in itself all brought together through their shared love of books. This is an all around heartwarming story that brought smiles to my face, along with a few tears. It’s excellent from beginning to end. I highly recommend.
Charming! Even the difficult to love characters were charming. I adored the way kindness slowly shifted the grumpy characters into likeable ones.
Grace Bennett moves from rural England to London with her best friend Viv after her aunt and uncle let her know there is no longer room for her to live in the only home Grace has known. Fortunately, her deceased mother had a beloved friend in London that welcomes Grace and her friend into her home. Needing employment, Grace accepts the only job she can obtain, shop girl at a bookshop, and (gasp!) she's not a reader.
Details about living in London during WWII were brought to life in the pages. The romance was a small part of the novel but wonderfully done. Lovely novel and highly recommended.
No, not really. I tried. I liked how the author could throw me into World War II and I liked how she wrote but….it was too slow, I really think it needed more pitch, power and oomph to get me to invest in it more than I was.
This was such a moving book. It has heartbreak and lose. However, it also shows the power of a community and friendships. I loved this story and the character development of the main character by the ending. Such a beautiful tale. I absolutely loved it and oh the ending! Such a moving story.
The Last Bookshop in London is an engaging, moving tale set during WWII that follows Grace Bennett, a young woman who heads to London in the fall of 1939 in the hopes of a better life and a glamourous career only to find herself employed in a dusty bookshop and war being declared.
The writing is seamless and smooth. The characters are brave, resilient, and supportive. And the plot is an absorbing tale of life, loss, family, heartbreak, friendship, self-discovery, community, determination, tragedy, survival, and love.
As some of you may already know, I’m originally from Coventry, a city heavily bombed during the war. And as my dad was born in 1937, I grew up hearing how a bomb exploded in his backyard 30 ft from the house leaving a crater two garden widths wide, and how he would count the number of new houses missing each morning on his way to school. But as that generation ages and memories start to fade, these stories are so important in reminding us how much novels helped and continue to help people cope with devastating circumstances and unimaginable losses, as well as how the strength, courage, selflessness, and sacrifices of that generation enabled us the lives we lead today. I loved The Last Bookshop in London, and I hope everyone who enjoys historical fiction picks this one up.
Thank you to Madeline Martin & HTP Books for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
As someone who works in a library and has visited London, reading a story about the last bookshop in London grabbed my interest! What kept me reading the book was the intricate relationships that were held within. In 1939, Grace was headed to the big city to get a job and be independent. What she hadn’t planned on was World War 2, persnickety people, and not having a letter of recommendation from her uncle. Having to start at a bookshop with an old curmudgeon, Grace quickly learns that she has the skills, ambition, and tenacity to make this work.
Over course of the story, Grace learns that when people want to escape when times are bad, and books are just the thing. As bad as things get in London with the air raids and blackouts, a book can let you travel somewhere far, somewhere safe, somewhere else. Grace’s dedication to the written word not only saves lives, but also a bookshop in London.
Enjoy others books by Jane Feather, Joanna Bourne, Emily Sullivan, or Stefanie Sloane. --Dana S