I love books about books, bookstores, libraries… This month I read three of them. They were very different, and I enjoyed each of them for different reasons.
THE LIBRARIAN OF BURNED BOOKS by Brianna Labuskes
This book actually has three timelines, 1933, 1936, and 1944, and features three women. It’s based on the true story of the Council of Books in Wartime, organized by booksellers and librarians during WWII. In 1933, Althea James writes a successful novel and becomes a guest of the Nazis. In 1936, Hannah has escaped Berlin and gone to Paris (after meeting Althea there). In 1944, Vivian is trying to save a program that sends books to soldiers and encounters both Althea and Hannah.
Three closely related timelines in this book bring these women together, bound by their love of books and the freedom to read what they like. I enjoyed the story but felt it dragged a bit in the middle with three women longing for some undefined satisfaction. Too much angst went on too long. The overall idea, though, of the books surviving because of those who loved them is a solid tale.
THE ECHO OF OLD BOOKS by Barbara Davis
Ashlyn sells old, rare books. When she touches them, she can feel emotional echoes of the book’s past owners. She feels sadness, joy, angst—a wide range of feelings. When she finds a pair of books that are obviously related to each other, but have never been published, and don’t have author’s names, she is determined to discover their secret. They give her deep feelings of loss, and she must learn about them.
I loved everything about this book from its beautiful cover to its heartwrenchingly happy ending. The idea fascinates me that someone could touch an old book and feel emotions of its past owners. It makes me want to spend more time in used bookstores! The mystery of a pair of books with no authors that speak in counterpoint to each other is almost as tragic as the life of the bookseller who feels their angst. Ethan and Ashlyn’s determination to explore their relationship even as the books’ mystery evolves around them will have you turning pages.
THE FORGOTTEN BOOKSHOP IN PARIS by Daisy Wood
This dual timeline novel follows a WWII bookseller in Paris who resists the Nazis, and a modern day woman who buys the derelict bookstore and discovers a secret.
What a delight! Buying a derelict bookstore in a foreign country is a romantic idea that in reality is pretty scary. This store needed to be rejuvenated, though, because of the great secret it contained. Great story of a woman’s break up and recovery woven with a WWII story of the Nazi occupation of Paris.
Linda Ulleseit is the award-winning author of The Aloha Spirit and Under the Almond Trees. Her next historical novel, The River Remembers, will be published in June 2023. To interact with her and other historical fiction authors and readers, join Paper Lantern Writer’s Facebook group SHINE.
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