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The Bookbinder

The Bookbinder, by Pip Williams

41/60 | Started 08.11.23 • Finished 09.07.23 | 4 stars

I really liked this historical fiction from Pip Williams. I read her previous book, The Dictionary of Lost Words, and though this is considered a sort of follow-up, it's not really connected to the first other than by the setting. Had to take a break in the middle of this one so I could read for book club, hence the longer reading time.

If you shrink yourself to the smallness of your circumstances, you'll soon disappear.

The book follows twin sisters Peggy and Maude as they live and work in Oxford. Both girls are employed at the local book bindery, where Peggy is often distracted by the words she sees while folding pages. She longs to study at the Oxford's women's college, Somerville, but sees no way to bridge the gap considering she left school as an early teen to begin work at the bindery. Add to that the uniqueness of her sister Maude, and Peggy subconsciously feels trapped.

"There's something about being told you can't have access that makes you long for a place, don't you think?"

World War II begins early on in the book, and Oxford is flooded with Belgian refugees. Peggy volunteers her time as a reader in the hospital wards, where she meets a young Belgian soldier with horrific injuries. Meanwhile, a woman named Lotte joins the ranks at the bindery, making quick friends with Maude. The story that flows from these relationships is one of love, and longing, friendship and loyalty, heartache and bravery. A must read for fans of historical fiction with strong female characters.

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