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?
About the Author
Jennifer Ryan is the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, The Spies of Shilling Lane, The Kitchen Front, and The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle. She was previously a nonfiction book editor. Originally from Kent and then London, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and two children.
Praise for The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
“[Jennifer] Ryan has dug into a fascinating closet of World War II history. . . . Her emphasis is on how people, especially women, manage to keep life (and love) going when so many others are intent on destroying it.”―Historical Novel Society
“A deliciously warm and heartrending tale . . . It’s empowering to see women helping women. . . . A lovely reminder that helping others is one of the things that make life so satisfying.”―Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls
Praise for The Kitchen Front
“A charming tale that will satiate a lot of different tastes . . . This story had me so hooked, I literally couldn’t put it down to cook.”―NPR
“World War II–era England wasn’t a happy place, but one can always find joy in cake and tea. . . . Four women, who have different reasons for competing, take solace in one another as they create recipes out of rationed ingredients. It’s like re-watching old episodes of The Great British Baking Show.”―The Washington Post
Praise for The Spies of Shilling Lane
“Quick and delightful . . . Ryan’s subtlety shines in her acknowledgment of the importance of remembering the people who pass through our lives and in her descriptions of how war and conflict can teach empathy and change people for the better.”―The New York Times Book Review
“Richly detailed . . . This tale swept me away!”―First for Women