I’m delighted to share my Book Review of The Last Library by Freya Sampson. This is the authors debut novel, published by Zaffre in September 2021. The story reminded me of the benefits and importance of supporting local libraries. As a result of reading The Last Library, I have re-joined my local Library in North Swindon.
When I visited I spent a lovely afternoon wandering around checking out what was on offer. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of up to date books that were available. I came away borrowing two books to keep me busy over the next 2-3 weeks.
- A non-fiction travel book: Mad Dogs & Englishmen – A year of things to see and do in England, and
- Fiction novel: Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
Freya’s right, you can tell a lot about a person from the library books they borrow 🙂
I was very impressed with the self check-out facility, and walked out a very happy new library member. Thanks to Freya Sampson for this lovely story and for re-introducing me to libraries once again.
Anyway, back to my book review of The Last Library, here’s the book description and my thoughts.
Book Cover Notes
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 . . .
At the beginning of the book we are introduced to June, a librarian assistant at Chalcot Village library. Following in her mum’s footsteps, June has been working at the village library for a number of years. She’s a quiet, hard working and kind librarian assistant. June has a lot of patience when dealing with the regular, more mature, village residents.
I liked the stories June made up in her head about some of the library members based on the books that they borrowed. The old lady who borrowed two Danielle Steele books and The Rough Guide to Iceland, June decided, was trapped in a loveless marriage. She was planning to run away to Reykjavik, where she’d fall in love with a rugged, bearded local.
I absolutely loved this description from June about young Jackson.
For June, the boy was a kindred spirit. She recognised the look in his eyes every time he walked in, that mixture of anticipation and excitement at the promises held within the shelves. And she understood implicitly what it felt like to be more at home with books than people, to prefer the adventures and travels within their pages to those in real life.
This is how I feel about books and reading. When I walk into a book store or library I’m in my happy place. Any of those books could transport me to another place, another time. Growing up I was always reading, and I have fond memories of visiting the library to borrow books. I loved stories that took me to far away places. From my late teens I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world. It’s no wonder I created TouringTales.co.uk. My blog is my way of sharing and encouraging others to explore the world in real life and through books.
There are several fabulous characters in this story, all using the library for different reasons. As you learn more about each character you begin to understand the message the author is sharing about the vital services a community library provides. The book also sensitively tackles subjects such as loss, loneliness and mental health.
I think Mrs B’s character was my favourite in the story. Arriving most days at the library, she would burst into the room and tell everyone ‘what a pile of shit that was’, about the latest book June had recommended for her. Mrs B was often short tempered and very direct, but she had a good heart and would fight any injustice. I loved how she took charge of the ‘Save Chalcot Library’ campaign. She believed she was the most experienced at getting arrested, being a public nuisance and challenging anyone in authority. 🙂
This is what annoys me most about this bloody council business. What these management consultants with their calculators and spreadsheets will never work out is that the library is about so much more than simply books. Libraries are like a net, there to catch those of us in danger of falling through the cracks. That’s what we’re really fighting to protect.
The authors writing is creative as well as thought provoking. There’s a clear message about the growing issues of council funding. Often hard decisions need to be made about where to cut costs. To some, libraries may be considered a non-essential service, however to others they are a vital lifeline. As well as books, it provides access to technology, a quiet space to study and somewhere to be around other people.
At times I felt sorry for June, as her own story began to unfold. We can all identify with the need to hide away with books, in times of stress. But I also became quite frustrated with her for allowing others to manipulate her. Her shyness and lack of confidence wouldn’t allow her to stand up for herself. I found myself willing her to find her voice and say something. Either to say no or to speak out and definitely to take action to fight for her library.
This story is a great reminder of the many benefits of belonging to, and supporting your local library.
Thanks to Freya’s uplifting story I have re-joined my own local library and now look forward to regular visits. Although, I’ll try to be more polite than Mrs B :-). You never know I may find new friendships with like minded book worms. Why not give it a go yourself, join your local library and share your thoughts in the comments below.
Where to Buy
Further book info
- Published Date: 2nd September 2021
- Publisher: Zaffre
- Page Count: 384
About The Author
Freya Sampson works in TV as an executive producer. Her credits include two documentary series for the BBC about the British Royal Family. Also a number of factual and entertainment series.
She studied History at Cambridge University and in 2018 was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize.
She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat.
Where to find Freya Sampson Online
Finally, I hope you’ve enjoyed my book review of The Last Library by Freya Sampson, go grab yourself a copy of the book today. I’m also excited to discover that Freya is working on her 2nd book ‘The Girl On The 88 Bus‘ which will be published July 2022, I can’t wait to read this new release. Why not pre-order your copy now.
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