Thisnis always a fun prompt. Basically it gives you the freedom to choose any book you want to read and you can pretty much guarantee that there is a past Popsugar prompt that it can fit. The 2020 challenge included the prompt ‘A book with a book on the cover.’ This is the perfe t prompt for one of my July reads, The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight.
What it’s about?
USA Today bestselling author Eliza Knight brings together a brilliant dual-narrative story about Nancy Mitford—one of 1930s London’s hottest socialites, authors, and a member of the scandalous Mitford Sisters—and a modern American desperate for change, connected through time by a little London bookshop.
1938: She was one of the six sparkling Mitford sisters, known for her stinging quips, stylish dress, and bright green eyes. But Nancy Mitford’s seemingly dazzling life was really one of turmoil: with a perpetually unfaithful and broke husband, two Nazi sympathizer sisters, and her hopes of motherhood dashed forever. With war imminent, Nancy finds respite by taking a job at the Heywood Hill Bookshop in Mayfair, hoping to make ends meet, and discovers a new life.
Present Day: When book curator Lucy St. Clair lands a gig working at Heywood Hill she can’t get on the plane fast enough. Not only can she start the healing process from the loss of her mother, it’s a dream come true to set foot in the legendary store. Doubly exciting: she brings with her a first edition of Nancy’s work, one with a somewhat mysterious inscription from the author. Soon, she discovers her life and Nancy’s are intertwined, and it all comes back to the little London bookshop—a place that changes the lives of two women from different eras in the most surprising ways.
What I think:
I love the Mitfords and have read quite a few of their own books and collections of letters as well as the many biographies written about them.
The Mayfair Bookshop focuses on eldest Mitford sister, writer Nancy. Nancy worked at Heywood Hill bookshop in London during WW2 and the story focuses on Nancy’s life from the 1930s up until the end of the war.
The dual narrative is split with the story of Lucy St Clair, a book curator who is seconded to work at Heywood Hill while putting together a library for a wealthy client. Lucy has a copy of Nancy’s classic novel, The Pursuit of Love that us dedicated to Iris and hopes to find the mysterious Iris and uncover her relationship with Nancy.
This is a beautifully written and atmospheric novel. Knight recreates the fun and recklessness of the bright young things and the keep calm and carry on atmosphere of London during the war.
Behind the glamour of Nancy’s life is also a sadness. Her marriage is miserable and while she has she has social standing she is constantly worrying about money. Her writing is not just a suitable hobby for an aristocratic lady, it pays her rent and her husband’s debts.
Nancy is searching, both for success as a writer, but for happiness in her personal life. She’s also caught between the different political ideals of her family. Her relationship with Diana and Unity as they become more embroiled with fascist Germany is interesting.
I’m not sure the book needed the dual timelines. Lucy’s story didn’t really go anywhere and she doesn’t really discover anything interesting about Nancy. The problem with the Mitfords is that their published memory and letters tell so much of their story themselves that there are fewer narrative gaps for writers to exploit.
This is a nice read that will definitely inspire readers to find out more for themselves. I think I will add a re-read of The Pursuit of Love to my tbr.