Originally published: 2 September 2021
Author: Freya Sampson
Published by: Zaffre
Length: 384 pages
Dates read: 15-19 August 2021
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 . . .
I’m thrilled to be sharing my blog post for The Last Library on publication day! I’m a sucker for any books about libraries or librarians, having been a librarian myself for over 25 years, so desperately wanted to read this!
June has been a librarian at the library in Chalcot for over 8 years since her mum passed away. She loves her job at the library, often enjoying making up life stories of the users based on the books they choose, for her own amusement. But she is shy and lonely, still living in the house she shared with her mum, surrounded by her things, often spending the evenings reading old favourites from her huge book collection.
When the library is threatened with closure, a group of locals decide to fight for its survival. All have a very special reason for wanting to keep the library open – and this is where the beauty of the book lies, showing how libraries are often vital hubs for the community – not just supplying books to read, but places where the lonely can enjoy some company, a place to study when home is chaotic, entertainment for toddlers with story and singing sessions and often the place where people can get help with IT support – using the internet or being able to fill out forms.
This was a lovely book which shows the strength of a group of people who come together with a cause close to their hearts. It was a lovely book about community and reminded me of books like The Lido by Libby Page or The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. A lovely heart-warming book, I thoroughly enjoyed this feel-good read.
“You see, libraries aren’t just about books. They’re places where an eight-year-old boy can have his eyes opened to the wonders of the world, and where a lonely eighty-year-old woman can come for some vital social human contact. Where a teenager can find precious quiet space to do her homework and a recently arrived immigrant can find a new community. Libraries are places where everyone, rich or poor, wherever they come from in the world, can feel safe. Where they can access information that will empower them.”
Do you use your local library? I have to say in recent years my usage has dropped off as since becoming a blogger, I have so many books to read but for many years I was a regular, dropping by every couple of weeks to pick up another six books. I took my kids there to choose their books every week and as they got older, encouraged them to find books on the topics they were learning about at school rather than using the internet. We have taken part in library summer reading schemes and story telling sessions and the library is a central part of our community and having read The Last Library, I am determined to start being a regular user to make sure we don’t loose our library!
Many thanks to Jenna for inviting me on the tour and sending me a proof copy of the book. Be sure to checkout the other stops below:
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, and 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. The Last Library is her debut novel.