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
Writing: 4/5 Characters: 5/5 Plot: 4.5/5
I am loving these Chinese mysteries by Elsa Hart. They go far beyond genre fiction with beautiful language that brings China in the early 18th century to life — detailed descriptions of history and culture embedded in the story rather than a dry droning.
Li Du was a scholar and a librarian in the Forbidden City before events five years past saw him exiled for his friendship with a man found to be a traitor. In his new life as a “scholar recluse,” Du finds himself in the far corner of China near the Tibetan planes just before the Emperor is due to arrive to predict a solar eclipse and strengthen his divine hold on this remote region. When a Jesuit priest turns up dead, Du feels compelled to learn the truth. The story progresses through the six days preceding the eclipse.
That’s the description, but the story is so much more. I was completely drawn to Li Du — a thoughtful, deliberate and highly moral man with a drive for the truth. I was also drawn to the idea of his quiet scholar’s life with quiet, beautiful physical books, and few people. Hart’s powers of description made me slow down and pay attention (I’m not a description person — I usually skim description in favor of dialog, action, or reflection).
This is the first of a three book series — I’ve already read (and loved) the third. I’m sad that I have just the second to go. I really think the BBC should do a mini-series!
I took a break from all the heavy stuff I’ve been reading and read three wonderful children / YA novels. Here is a review of the first (and my favorite) in the trifecta!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The book will be published on April 30, 2019.
A brilliantly imaginative story combining history, science, and the importance of knowledge into a children’s adventure story centered around the most impressive, awesome, majestic, humongous library of all time.
Lenora — our eleven-year old heroine — escapes from her (luckily) inattentive nanny through a secret arch of her local library and lands in the aforementioned “Library of Ever.” Confronted with a ten-foot tall stern and very pointy librarian who insists that only library employees may enter, she applies for and is immediately granted a job as the 4th Assistant Apprentice Librarian. Her largely self-directed adventures take her through the Calendar help desk, the cartography section, and a live-action diorama of Bubastes (look this up!). She helps penguins find their way home, a tardigrade (yes — this is a real thing — look this up too!) get directions to Alpha Centauri, and a King in the year 8000 unravel some trouble with time. My absolutely favorite part is when she dons a pheromone interpreter (in her nostrils) in order to help her understand a group of troubled ants.
Most importantly throughout, she works to fight off the Forces of Darkness personified as beings dressed in overcoats and bowler hats, who seek to extinguish the light of knowledge in the world around them.
This should be required reading for all middle schoolers — an ode to librarians and a concise and pithy description of the importance of libraries and knowledge freely available to all.