The Paris Library meets The Flight Girls in this captivating historical novel about the sacrifice and courage necessary to live a life of honor, inspired by the first female volunteer librarians during World War I and the first women accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy.
Two women. One secret. A truth worth fighting for. 1918. Timid and shy Emmaline Balakin lives more in books than her own life. That is, until an envelope crosses her desk at the Dead Letter Office bearing a name from her past, and Emmaline decides to finally embark on an adventure of her own—as a volunteer librarian on the frontlines in France. But when a romance blooms as she secretly participates in a book club for censored books, Emmaline will need to find more courage within herself than she ever thought possible in order to survive.
1976 Kathleen Carre is eager to prove to herself and to her nana that she deserves her acceptance into the first coed class at the United States Naval Academy. But not everyone wants female midshipmen at the Academy, and after tragedy strikes close to home, Kathleen becomes a target. To protect herself, Kathleen must learn to trust others even as she discovers a secret that could be her undoing.
A dual timeline story, which I always enjoy, this one combines 1918 during WWI and another in 1976, with one of the first women to be accepted into the US Naval Academy.
Emmaline Balakin has always been a shy and quiet woman. She had a sweetheart once, but it didn’t work out. Now working in the Dead Letter Office, she dares to check out a familiar name on a letter refused and returned. She knows the intended recipient is married. She never lost feelings for the sender (now a soldier) and the letter discloses where he is located.
Emmaline discovers she could qualify as a volunteer librarian on the frontlines in France. Indeed, the men spend long lonely, boring hours with nothing and books have proven to be a lifeline—in more ways than one.
Kathleen Carre has always dreamed of being in the Navy—of following in her Nana’s brave footsteps who participated in the first world war as a driver. But Nana doesn’t reciprocate the enthusiasm.
Indeed, both women discover unexpected hurdles, frightening aspects, and each faces a desperate situation of their own. Emmaline finds her past love but denies him a truth that will badly damage their newly found relationship. Kathleen discovers it’s not as difficult to pass the physical aspect of those first months than to defy the opposition to female inductees into a long-established all-male bastion.
Both women make errors of judgment, denying courses of action, or boldly forcing courses of action that create further conflict. As the chapters switch back and forth between the tales of each, something is becoming apparent.
Emmaline becomes the more sympathetic of the two. Kathleen is too strongly obsessed and I never want to hear one more “Nana.” Yes, the Nana thing was repeated (over and over)—but the reader (or listener) got it the first time. For some reason, I never warmed to Kathleen; the thing with Nana and her mother.
So I’ll mention that the shocking twist in the conclusion was not unexpected, but I did like the way it was drawn. Emmaline’s story divulged some stats of which I was unaware—the book drives for the men—something a later generation would not have considered.
Kathleen is fully involved in crashing a glass ceiling—she is driven—and triumphed with a satisfying revelation you’ll want to read for yourself. It’s an engaging and entertaining audiobook, well narrated, suffering only one slow segment in the pace.
I received a complimentary review copy of this audiobook from my locally well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: World War II Historical Fiction, Family Life Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Listening Length: 10 hrs 8 mins
Narrators: Saskia Maarleveld, Lauren Ezzo
Publication Date: August 9, 2022
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The War Librarian [Amazon]
Rosepoint Publishing: 4.5 stars
The Author: [Addison Armstrong] I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a five-year-old writing stories about talking school supplies and ants getting their revenge on exterminators. While a junior at Vanderbilt University studying elementary education, I wrote my first historical fiction novel, The Light of Luna Park, and sold it to G.P. Putnam’s Sons in January of my senior year. Now that I’ve graduated with my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Language & Literacy Studies, as well as a Master’s in Reading Education with an ESL endorsement, I’m teaching third grade English language learners in Nashville and continuing to write.
©2022 V Williams