Writing: 3.5/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 4/5
This is a fictionalized history of the Bethnal Green (at the time) unfinished tube stop in East London during WWII. This book focuses on the library that was moved to the station when the above ground version was bombed, but there was a veritable city created in the stop and (unused) tunnels, with triple bunks for 5,000 people, a nursery, cafe, and the as-always top notch administration by locals. I don’t like reading books about war, but I’m always drawn to books about how civilians create on the fly systems to help them survive. The addendum explains the actual history more fully, making clear what part of the book was fiction vs fact, though I found that pretty obvious anyway.
It’s March 1944. Clara Button is the 25-year old childless widow who is “temporarily” put in charge of the library, with the help of the irrepressible library assistant Ruby Munro. A well-detailed set of characters ranging across age and socio-economic levels populate the library, all with inspiring and heart-breaking stories. Thompson does a good job of bringing these characters to life. An engaging story — I could pick apart aspects of the plot if I were in a snippy mood, but overall I quite enjoyed it. It spoke well to the value of books and reading in all circumstances which means that it spoke very well to me!
This book would make a great movie — I hope it gets optioned!
Thank you to Forever Publishing and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on February 21st, 2023