Tuesday 21 September 2021

The Last Library - Freya Sampson

You can tell a lot about a person from the library books they borrow

Library assistant June knows a lot about the regulars at Chalcot Library, yet they know very little about her. When her mum - the beloved local librarian - passed away eight years ago, June stepped into her shoes. But despite their shared love of books, shy June has never felt she can live up to the village's memory of her mum. Instead, she's retreated into herself and her memories, surviving on Chinese takeaways-for-one and rereading their favourite books at home.

When the library is threatened with closure, a ragtag band of eccentric locals establish the Friends of Chalcot Library campaign. There's gentlemanly pensioner Stanley, who visits the library for the computers and the crosswords, cantankerous Mrs B, who is yet to find a book she approves of, and teenager Chantal, who just wants a quiet place to study away from home. But can they compel reclusive June to join their cause?

If June wants to save the library, she finally has to make some changes to her life: opening up her heart to friendship, opportunities and maybe even more . . .

What did I think?

As a booklover, I just couldn't resist a book about books!  The gorgeous hardback edition of Freya Sampson's wonderful debut even has a print of a library ticket inside which lists all main characters as if they had checked out the book.  It's such a lovely little touch that makes a book feel extra special when held in the hands of a booklover.

The library is June's happy place; it's where she has fond memories of her mum who also worked there and where she interacts with the colourful characters of the local community.  So, when the council threaten to close the library, June and the library patrons decide to make some noise to show their opposition.  For introvert June, this is way beyond her comfort zone and she is at risk of losing her job if she opposes the council.  The library is clearly important to June so she needs to break free of her shell and stand up for what she believes in.

Oh what a delightful book.  It's a vibrant, fun story with a huge message: libraries are SO important.  There's much more to a library than books; it's the hub of the community and a place where you can send an email if you don't have a computer, read the newspaper or study for school.  This beautiful novel shows us that libraries are a place where you can be alone without being lonely; you can have some peace and quiet (unless it's time for children's storytime) but there's always somebody else there and for some people this could be the only interaction they have with another human being all day.  

Beautifully written with warmth and humour, The Last Library is a truly heartwarming book bursting with community spirit.  Libraries are lifesavers for many people and The Last Library reminds us how important they are. 

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