Thank you so much to the publishers for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
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 . . .
One thing I love is books about books. I love them even more when they are about libraries as well. The Last Library is exactly that and it was a joy to read.
Throughout this book we see a community fight to keeps its library open after budget cuts have it on the list for local library closures. Chaclot Library means the world to its patrons, its staff and the local community and the community are putting up their best fight to keep it open.
I have worked in libraries for a few years now but always been a library user. I first went to my local library when I was a few months old and have never stopped using them ever since. There are so many reasons why I love working in libraries and this book highlights them all.
I know first-hand the importance libraries have for the patrons and the wider community. So many people visit to check their emails, use the computers, socialise, read and so much more. Libraries are a safe space, a place to find warmth and always there for you. The Last Library shows so many different types library patrons with its characters.
The characters are all so diverse and funny. June, who is the main character appears to be a timid and shy to most people. When, in reality she is strong willed, determined and inspiring. She remembers all the patrons names and makes their experience in the library one to remember. June is fabulous.
Then, so many side characters who have a huge impact on the story. Majorie who also works in the library is incredibly smart and strong. Mrs B is a hilarious, queer, older woman who I adored. Leila, who uses the library to learn to cook and represents so many library patrons who a lot of people forget about. Vera comes across as the angry customer but there is so much more to her. Alex is back in the village after living in London and he is sweet! Stanley is the older gentleman who uses the library daily and almost seems like part of the furniture. He is the character I feel has the most impact on the story.
I cannot talk about the characters and not mention little Jackson who I adored and has the best line of the whole book in the form of a haiku.
“Libraries are boats,
And the books are life jackets,
Without them we’ll drown.”
This book is a story of a community and a community with a library at its heart. Freya Sampson writes at the start of the book that this is to show how vital libraries are for communities and she does that and so much more. I cannot wait to read more from Freya Sampson.
I cannot talk about this book without saying it is the first book I’ve cried at for a long time. There is a moment in this book that shocked me and warmed my heart so much that I just couldn’t help but cry happy tears. I loved this book!
Overall, The Last Library is a stunning love letter to libraries and the communities that they support. Freya Sampson has written a beautiful novel that I cannot recommend enough to lovers of books and libraries. It will warm your heart and make you take a step back and think about how much your little village library helps so many people.