I cannot resist a book about books or book shops and that was the main reason of course for picking this title. But the title and the cover do not really do it justice.
This is a lovely wartime saga set at the outbreak of the First World War where the world was a different place and the excitement and buzz from fighting was nothing like the true horrors of the men that returned.
The characters of the book are of course all those who work in Foyles, in particular Alice, Victoria and Molly. I of course loved the little insights into the workings of the shop – to have to go and pay at a counter and take a receipt back so you could collect the book you had purchased.
But the three girls and their lives are what drives this book forward. Alice has been in love with Freddie ,a policeman for a while, in fact he was there when Victoria lost her parents and now war is coming, the future is very different and he wants to make sure Alice remains the girl for him.
Victoria is struggling with her two siblings who she has sole responsibility for financial and emotional and it is becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet. The war helps her family to move toward some sort of purpose.
Molly is always bubbly and bright but when she becomes involved with a man she seems to lose her sparkle and when things end between them and he eventually goes to war, she wonders whether she should have just put up with what she had.
We get to meet their families as well and I was fascinated by Alice’s family dynamic. Her spritely and spirited sister Lily who was out fighting for suffragism against their indomitable father does something even more outstanding but it is not her who makes their father see what his actions are causing.
Of course the First World War is a dominant feature of this book but I found its approach refreshing and it brought home what was happening on the Home Front as much as in the battlefields. The belief that it would all be over by Christmas of 1914 was clearly believed. But life went on and people still visited the girls in the bookshop – an escape from reality?
This is a strong start to what looks to be a trilogy of books about these women and I cannot wait to go back and see how they are all fairing.
Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.
The Foyles Bookshop Girls is out now.