Published By: Headline
Released On: 27/04/2023
Loveday Cardew’s beloved Lost for Words bookshop, along with the rest of York, has fallen quiet. At the very time when people most need books to widen their horizons, or escape from their fears, or enhance their lives, the doors are closed. Then the first letter comes.
Rosemary and George have been married for fifty years. Now their time is running out. They have decided to set out on their last journey together, without ever leaving the bench at the bottom of their garden in Whitby. All they need is someone who shares their love of books.
Suddenly it’s clear to Loveday that she and her team can do something useful in a crisis. They can recommend books to help with the situations their customers find themselves in: fear, boredom, loneliness, the desire for laughter and escape.
And so it begins.
Thanks to Headline for the gifted copy of this title in return for an honest review and a spot on the book tour.
Is there a more perfect sounding book than this one? I’ll answer that. No! It was a winner for me before I’d even opened the cover. Do I now have a list of Stephanie’s other books to buy and work my way through? Why yes, I do.
I said to my mum (who isn’t a particularly keen reader) that I wanted to exist in the world of this book. I know it’s very much a normal world, full of pandemics and whatnot (and you’re probably screaming that we did live in a world full of pandemics why would you want to again?), but this world and community she has created within the bookshop is perfect.
The idea of a book pharmacy is fantastic and I wish I’d created it. I love nothing better than suggesting books to people, but not many of my nearest and dearest really do reading, so I’m living vicariously through the people in this book. I actually signed up to an online course in Bibliotherapy many moons ago to learn about ‘prescribing’ books for people’s ills. But I never completed it. I really should get back to that.
This book perfectly depicts what is so special about books and bookshops and booksellers, and makes us bookworms sound more like the normal ones round here.
I’ve said in previous reviews that I generally dislike books that use COVID as a plot device. I lived it, I don’t want to read it. I want to escape from reality for a bit. But it didn’t really seem like an issue with this book. And I think it’s because it’s like about COVID itself, but more about life around it; the negatives and positives, the people, the businesses, the emotions – and that I really liked. Because the pandemic made us feel very isolated, and so to read about others, it gives you that freedom we were so missing at the time.
Obviously this book had to come out when it does, because it’s telling us about the pandemic after the event, she couldn’t exactly have written it before the event. But I feel it would have been a really good book to have out during the pandemic, so that everyone would feel a little less lonely.
I found it emotional right from the off. And that’s not necessarily in a sad way – although there is that too (you’ll get no spoilers from me!), but it’s just very moving and I suppose I wasn’t expecting that. There is sadness, yes, collective and individual sadness, but there’s also happiness and joy and friendship and family and love and, above all, hope, even when all seems lost. And that is all very moving.
The curse of a good book: wanting to whizz through it fast so you can find out what happens, but wanting it to last forever because you never want to leave its world.
The problem with this book is that it mentions lots of other books (unsurprisingly), which means I’ve now got a list of 23 new books I want to read, so I’ll be sending my bill to Stephanie. 😊 The amount of research she must have had to do for this book, just in terms of thinking of what books to suggest to her characters is amazing and it makes me want to view her own home library, see what goodies she has.
I actually sent a Twitter message to Stephanie when I was about 100 pages into it because I wanted to thank her. The way she writes about how important books are is just beautiful. My mental health hasn’t been good recently, combined with chronic pain and whatnot, and I have a tendency to fall into a depression, and the only thing that has really kept me going is reading. And she’s written the words I didn’t know I needed, about books being medicine to help combat sadness or loneliness. It was like she found the words that my heart wanted to say, which may sound corny, but I truly agree that books and reading can be our salvation.
Now, I don’t know Stephanie, and I have only spoken to her once in the aforementioned Twitter message, but my gut instinct is this is the book she needed once upon a time, and wished she had, and so now she’s giving it to all of us to treasure.
There are difficult topics in this book though, I will point out, including, obviously, COVID, illness and grief, but also miscarriage, domestic violence, loneliness, deceit, vandalism. That may seem like a lot to throw at a 400+ page book, but it’s not. It’s all written with such sensitivity and heart that it fits with these characters and their situations and it makes it feel more like reality, because sadly we all go through these things, or know someone that has.
I also like that it’s full of short chapters, some only 1 or 2 pages long. I have said before, I much prefer short chapters. They make the book feel faster and more exciting, and it means you can read to the end of a chapter before you go to sleep. I also love that the chapters are from different characters’ points of view. We have Kelly and Loveday who work in the shop, the other members of the bookshop family Sarah-Jane and Madison, the love interests Nathan and Craig, and then you have the wider community: Zoe, Jennifer, Trixie, Rosemary and George, Adjoa, Bella, Casey, Hozan and Zhilwan, Lorraine – it’s a real cross-section of real people and they’re all fabulous. Some you only hear from once or twice, and others take up several chapters with their story. It’s a nice balance. At first, it may seem like too many characters to keep in your head, but it’s not. They all feel instantly familiar like you’re reading about your own neighbours.
It’s the perfect book for any time. For a grey winter’s evening curled up in front of the fire, for a hot day lying on a foreign beach, for when you’re sad or lonely or grieving, for when you’re happy or excited or in love, and for when you just want someone to say, “it’s ok”.