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The Librarian Spy: A Novel of WWII by Madeline Martin: A Book Review

The Librarian Spy: A Novel of WWII
Author: Madeline Martin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Release Date: 2022
Pages: 401
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Bookshop in London comes a moving new novel inspired by the true history of America’s library spies of World War II.

     Ava thought her job as a librarian at the Library of Congress would mean a quiet, routine existence. But an unexpected offer from the US military has brought her to Lisbon with a new mission: posing as a librarian while working undercover as a spy gathering intelligence.


     Meanwhile, in occupied France, Elaine has begun an apprenticeship at a printing press run by members of the Resistance. It’s a job usually reserved for men, but in the war, those rules have been forgotten. Yet she knows that the Nazis are searching for the press and its printer in order to silence them.


     As the battle in Europe rages, Ava and Elaine find themselves connecting through coded messages and discovering hope in the face of war.


     My Review: Ava Harper is a librarian at the Library of Congress. She is eventually sent to work at a library in Lisbon to spy on the Germans who reside there. Shortly after her arrival, she receives a coded message from Elaine, who works for the Resistance at a printing press, to help a Jewish mother and son find safe passage to America. Ava immediately agrees to help. Elaine and Ava are determined to risk everything-including their lives-to save the mother and son.


     Ava is a fascinating character. She is a woman who has a traumatic past. She was an orphan, and her only relative is her brother, who is currently fighting in the war. In order to save her brother, she is determined to become a spy. I really adore Ava’s love for her books. Her books are her comfort and strength. I also like how Ava is very kind, compassionate, and selfless. She is very brave and often puts herself in danger. Thus, Ava was a compelling character.


     I found Elaine to be a more intriguing character than Ava. She joined the Resistance to help save her husband who was captured by the Germans. She is also selfless, empathetic, and caring. She cares for both her friends and strangers. She is very courageous and takes many risks of being captured by the Germans. Thus, Elaine was a more engaging character, and I wanted to know how her story ends.


     Overall, this novel is about friendship, loss, and hope. The message of the book is that no matter how dark and hopeless it seems, there is always a silver lining. While I found Ava and Elaine to be well-developed characters, the other characters are very cliché. I loved Elaine’s storyline more than Ava's because it is very action-packed and shows the cruelties of war. Ava’s story had very little action until the end. Her story did not focus on her role as a spy but was heavily focused on romance. The main plot of the story does not start until halfway through the book. Therefore, I would have enjoyed it better if there was more focus on Elaine’s story and Ava had less chapters. Still, I liked the setting of neutral Portugal and war-torn France. The writing style is very simplistic and easy to read. The Librarian Spy is an absorbing read for those who love reading about WWII. Even if you are tired of reading WWII novels, it is still worth a read because of its unique setting. I recommend this novel for fans of The Codebreaker’s Secret, The Rose Code, and The Girl from Guernica!


Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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