The Librarian Spy

by Madeline Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to start by saying I am not a history expert. I cannot comment on the accuracy of facts or events in this book. My review will focus entirely on the narrative.

This was an extremely heartbreaking story to read, as most Word War II books usually are. I really enjoyed the structure used to tell this story. Two women in different parts of the world both working in different ways to help those in danger from the war, yet they find their efforts entertained later in the story. I loved the perspective jumping back and forth between the two women and seeing what kind of hardships they both faced. It was very interesting seeing how harsh and life threatening things could be for them and everyone around them.

While these women do a lot and the book does span a large amount of time, a large chunk of the narrative focus around their combined efforts to help a mother and child escape France to the United States to reunite with the woman’s husband. This was well presented and while it made up a large chunk of their efforts, the author spends a lot of time showing how much tragedy was around them and how hard they had to work to gain even small amounts of progress toward their goals overall.

All My Thoughts

May contain spoilers.

I don’t read a lot of World War II themed novels, but this was a fascinating book. I loved that the focus was not on soldiers fighting the war on the front lines, but the men and, especially, women working in secret to help those they could in often unseen ways.

The two women who are the focus of the book, Ava and Elaine, are such strong willed and determined characters you can’t help but love them. It was quite the emotional journey reading what they went through. Elaine especially had a difficult time, being in occupied France. A few moments were difficult to read, like her close call with torture and asking to be shot in order to avoid being taken again for questioning. While Ava was in a somewhat safer country, she was by no means out of danger at all. Every moment we followed her journey it felt like there was always someone lurking or hiding in plain sight that couldn’t be trusted.

As the book continued, I did start wondering why the author chose to focus on these two characters. I wasn’t sure what would connect them since they spent pretty much the nature time in separate countries and had no actual interaction with one another until the very end of the book. This was handled really well though. Eventually Elaine focuses so much effort into helping a mother and child attempt to get out of France and to the United States where the woman’s husband is. She uses her resources to send out a coded message which Ava happens to come across. This effort to help these people is what brings these two seemingly separate stories together. I loved seeing how hard they both worked to help, even going against their orders and putting themselves in danger. It was so very tense and sad. Both women meet many others during their time helping, other spies and victims alike. There was so much suffering at times it was difficult to keep reading, but the narrative just pushes you along so well you want to keep going in hopes their efforts aren’t in vain.

Overall

This was a heartbreaking book full of tragedy and bravery from sources you don’t immediately think of in these situations. Full of likable and redeeming characters that make you want to keep reading.

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