The Foyles Bookshop Girls by Elaine Roberts

This was a heart-warming yet emotional story about three girls who lives are touched by the war, and demonstrates real depth in representing their reactions to it.

London, 1914: one ordinary day, three girls arrive for work at London’s renowned Foyles bookshop. But when war with Germany is declared their lives will never be the same again…
Alice has always been the ‘sensible’ one in her family – especially in comparison with her suffrage-supporting sister! But decidedly against her father’s wishes, she accepts a job at Foyles Bookshop; and for bookworm Alice it’s a dream come true.
But with the country at war, Alice’s happy world is shattered in an instant. Determined to do what she can, Alice works in the bookshop by day, and risks her own life driving an ambulance around bomb-ravaged London by night. But however busy she keeps herself, she can’t help but think of the constant danger those she loves are facing on the frontline…

I really enjoyed how these three women were represented. It was great to see them as strong independent women but it didn’t go too far and still stayed in context of the time it was set. All of them had jobs and their own struggles to deal with, and they were written so well.

Alice was definitely my favourite character – she was stronger than she realised and I really warmed to her as she had such a kind heart, but her tendency to overly worry definitely resonated with me! She was quietly insistent that she work at Foyles and as an ambulance driver, and I enjoyed this quiet rebellion against her father more than her sister Lily’s outright anger. Lily was still a brilliant character, providing the perfect counterpart to Alice’s more sensible persona, and her confidence at standing up to her father and doing whatever she wanted was great to read. The two girls represent perfectly that time when the suffragette movement was taking off, and the ways in which different women dealt with it. Despite Alice not being so outspoken about it and not attending the same rallies that Lily did, her whole being generally radiated a confidence and belief in change, and parts of the book, such as her discussion with Freddie, cement this further.

Alice’s relationship with Freddie was simply lovely. They were the couple that everyone wants to be but without being too sickly sweet. They were super cute, and his love for her was so obvious. Her struggle while he was away at war, and watching her deal with highs and lows by herself for fear of worrying him was really emotional, and I spent most of the book wishing for him to return and surprise her.

Luke, Alice’s father, was a fascinating character. His bitterness and unhappiness was so evident, but the cause of it was fairly unclear for ages into the book. His sudden shock into reality was emotional to follow, but also interesting to see his reaction to the realities of war. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t seem to understand or care about the reactions of his family to his actions and comments but gradually throughout the book he is more and more understood and changed.

The other two girls, Victoria and Molly, were a great balance to Alice. Victoria’s grief at losing her parents and her struggle to maintain the house and a good life for her siblings was very hard to imagine, but Roberts wrote the situation beautifully. It was also interesting to read how Alice tried to help Victoria, and it was easy to see how the two girls clashed – it’s a hard situation to navigate, and it was understandable why Victoria didn’t want Alice’s help, so I thought that Roberts wrote this in a really realistic way. Molly was so much fun, her relationship with Tony was again a very realistic situation to be in, but it was interesting watching her inner conflict when it came to him.

I honestly loved this book so much, I felt it was realistic and heart-warming and I always enjoy books that are set during a war period but not directly about war. I love seeing the effect it has on people trying to live their normal lives, and overall it was a beautifully written book.

The Foyle Bookshop Girls
Elaine Roberts
Aria, 1st June 2018

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