The Underground Library

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Modern Age

The Underground Library
Author: Ryan, Jennifer
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1939-1941
Geographic Area: Europe
Country: Great Britain
Topics: WWII
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2024

World History > Modern Age > WWII

When the Blitz imperils the heart of a London neighborhood, three young women must use their fighting spirit to save the community’s beloved library in this novel based on true events from the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.

When the new deputy librarian, Juliet Lansdown, finds that Bethnal Green Library isn’t the bustling hub she is expecting, she becomes determined to breathe life back into it. But can she show the men in charge that a woman is up to the task of running the library, especially when a confrontation with her past threatens to derail her?

Katie Upwood is thrilled to be working at the library, although she is only there until she heads off to university in the fall. But after the death of her beau on the front line and amid tumultuous family strife, she finds herself harboring a life-changing secret with no one to turn to for help.

Sofie Baumann, a young Jewish refugee, came to London on a domestic service visa only to find herself working as a maid for a man who treats her abominably. She escapes to the library every chance she can, finding friendship in the literary community and aid in finding her sister, who is still trying to flee occupied Europe.

When a slew of bombs destroys the library, Juliet relocates the stacks to the local Underground station where the city’s residents shelter nightly, determined to lend out stories that will keep spirits up. But tragedy after tragedy threatens to unmoor the women and sever the ties of their community. Will Juliet, Kate, and Sofie be able to overcome their own troubles to save the library? Or will the beating heart of their neighborhood be lost forever?

Emily's Review

This solidifies it, I am adding the rest of Jennifer Ryan's backlist to my tbr. This is my second time reading her work and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a bit predictable and even slightly cheesy at times, but somehow, it worked for me. You will enjoy her work if you enjoy things like Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. This book is such a feel-good story. It read just like I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey. It had all the coziness and comfort I could have wanted. I tend to read a lot of dark and emotional books, so it's nice to have something like this to add to the mix once in a while to remind myself there is good in the world, too.

Based on true events, this is the story of community and friendship during a difficult time. When the Germans began bombing London during the Blitz, life went underground - literally. The city took shelter in the underground stations. In this story, we follow three women - Juliet, the new deputy librarian in Bethnal Green who has big plans for building readership in her library. Katie, who is working at the library for the summer and mourning her boyfriend who is believed to have died at war, and Sophie a Jewish refugee working as a housekeeper and finding refuge at the library. These three women come together through their love of books to build a community.

This was an enjoyable read full of romance, atmosphere, and a love of literature.

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