Prompt: A book that has a book on the cover
Picked up some books in a local charity shop before lockdown and among the pile was The Librarian by Salley Vickers. It was on my book wish list and the cover was gorgeous so I picked it up for £1 and fitted it into the reading challenge.
What it’s about?
A charmingly subversive novel about a library in 1950s England, by the acclaimed author of The Cleaner of Chartres.
Sylvia Blackwell, a young woman in her twenties, moves to East Mole, a quaint market town in middle England, to start a new job as a children’s librarian. But the apparently pleasant town is not all it seems. Sylvia falls in love with an older man – but it’s her connection to his precocious young daughter and her neighbours’ son which will change her life and put them, the library and her job under threat.
How does the library alter the young children’s lives and how do the children fare as a result of the books Sylvia introduces them to?
What I think:
It took me a while to read this one. It’s very easy to pick up and put down so I’ve read other books in between.
This book feels very nostalgic. Life is a much slower pace and there is a real sense of community. East Mole is a small town where people know each other’s business and gossip.
Despite being 25, Sylvia is far more comfortable with children then she is with adults. She values reading and the power it has to transport you to other worlds she is an avid reader of children’s literature and sets about rejuvenating the neglected children’s library with passionate and enthusiasm.
Her affair with Dr Bell is not quite the life-changing love affair she is hoping for. Despite no longer being in love with his wife, he isn’t brave enough to risk his reputation. He’s quite unappealing really, but with a shortage of good-looking, age appropriate men, you can see how Sylvia falls for him.
As a teacher, I found the depiction of school life really interesting. The 11+ and a place at grammar school had the power to change children’s future. We see this clearly with Lizzie, whose expected to fail, but passes, and Sam for whom the opposite is true.
I loved part 2 of the book. Reading reviews of The Librarian, lots if people have criticised the jump to the present day. But I loved the fact that it showed the impact seemingly small events and short encounters with people in your childhood can have on your life. The impact Sylvia has on Lizzie and Sam is huge. Without meeting her their lives would have been very different. Sylvia may leave East Mole, but her legacy remains.
I enjoyed this book. I didn’t love it, but I really liked it. It’s slow and nostalgic. But it’s not rose tinted. Some of the adults in this book are morally corrupt and there are casual allusions to child abuse which are brushed under the carpet. When the five year old twins tell Sylvia that the school caretaker likes to see then pull their knickers down she completely ignores it and tells them not to be silly.
Order a copy of The Librarian from:
Waterstones: click here
Amazon.co.uk: click here