This week we have another amazing recommendation from our friendly SAC librarian Victoria. At this point, if she tells me to read something, I’m just going to read it! She hasn’t led me astray yet… even though I despised The Magicians, but we don’t have to talk about that. This time she introduced me to a book that has easily become one of my top ten. So, to Victoria, I say you had me at the title, and the story didn’t disappoint. I love books about books, bookshops, book merchants, researchers, and libraries. Books are at the heart of this story, but it is so much more.


I found The Lost Bookshop to be utterly magical and absorbing, despite it being a multiple timeline novel. Each chapter is told in the first person in turn by Opaline beginning in 1920s Dublin, Martha in the recent past and that of Henry her recent acquaintance. Normally, I despise multi-perspective books, I would find myself rushing through chapters because I had grown bored of reading a certain character’s perspective. This book handled that trope with such grace that I found myself actually enjoying each character’s unique insight to their experiences. 


Opaline is running from her family and tyrannical brother, who is forcing her to marry. She runs abroad to Paris and, using her genuine love and knowledge of books, gets a job at the bookshop Shakespeare and Company (which I was told by our resident Writing Coordinator, Brenda, is a real place). Unfortunately, she ends up having to run again and finds herself in Dublin where she rents an old curiosity shop. Adding her own flair to the shop, she sets herself up as a successful bookseller. All the while trying to hide her identity and constantly having to look over her shoulder. 


Meanwhile, Martha is running from a violent husband. She finds herself a job as a housemaid to a strange old woman in a large Georgian House, ideal for hiding from her problems. It is from the window of her small bedroom that we meet Henry, a slightly obsessive academic. He is convinced that a bookshop should be on the site of the house Martha is living and working in. The only proof he has of the book shop is a letter from a rare book collector to the owner of the shop, Miss Opaline Gray, to prove it once existed. But it wouldn’t be called The Lost Bookshop if it was easy to find. 


I feel compelled to warn any interested readers that while this book has a wonderful ending, it’s also beautifully sad. There are very few wins for our protagonists, each time you think “Ah, this character finally has a happy aspect in their life” it is quickly ripped away. Never have I read a book that was so constantly tragic, and at the same time always left a sense of hope for the characters. I honestly don’t want to spoil the book any further, but I feel like one character never got the justice they deserved. Sure, they had a happy ending, but it feels like the cost of their journey offset anything positive. 


This frustrated me to no end until I had the sad realization that life is sometimes like that, and the beauty of their story lies in their ability to find meaning and purpose despite their suffering. I suppose that’s what the author was trying to explore: the themes of justice and resolution in a nuanced way. The notion that life’s hardships can offset positive outcomes speaks to a realistic portrayal of human experience. The lack of full justice for the character reflects the idea that not all struggles are adequately compensated, and not all stories have perfectly balanced resolutions.


I completely lost myself reading the book. The compelling stories covering addiction, violence, war, grief, and other topics as they touched the lives of the three characters. All the while the mysterious bookshop and the promise of finding a long-lost manuscript haunts the pages of each of their stories. Despite the taint of sadness that is woven throughout the book, so too is a hint of magic. This is a powerful and enriching imaginative story that had me glued to its pages, wrapped in the arms of its glorious prose. A must-read for the heart that likes to step beyond boundaries.

The Lost BookshopThe Lost Bookshop by Evie Woods

ISBN: 9780008609214
Publication Date: 2023-06-22
The Echo of Old Books meets The Lost Apothecary in this evocative and charming novel full of mystery and secrets. 'The thing about books,' she said 'is that they help you to imagine a life bigger and better than you could ever dream of.' On a quiet street in Dublin, a lost bookshop is waiting to be found... For too long, Opaline, Martha and Henry have been the side characters in their own lives. But when a vanishing bookshop casts its spell, these three unsuspecting strangers will discover that their own stories are every bit as extraordinary as the ones found in the pages of their beloved books. And by unlocking the secrets of the shelves, they find themselves transported to a world of wonder... where nothing is as it seems.