Mary Gibson comes to the blog today with a story of potential and hope in a 1920’s ‘dockers’ neighborhood in London with
The Bermondsey Bookshop
Firstly, to start this review it is important for you to know that the bookshop was a very real place, set down in a very unlikely neighborhood where people struggle to simply make the rent and put food on the table. The changes wrought in the early 1900’s in Britain not only returned (or didn’t) several men from World War I, a shakeup of the ‘grand houses’, women finding work other than street corners, and a general overlay of grime and soot because of the heavy use of coal for heat and power. Into this mix comes Ethel Gutman, backed by her husband, with her determination and belief that the class divide is a useless concept, and that true art and literature should (and could) be available to all. Setting up a series of “subscription plans” to purchase books, as well as lectures, clubs and classes, and allowing anyone to come in and read ‘at will’: the shop defied thought and convention of the day in providing an outlet (and a space) where thought and words were celebrated.
Enter Kate, our heroine, who we first meet at fourteen and learn that her mother died in a fall, her father left her with an aunt as he went off to ‘find his fortune”. But Kate was always misused at her aunt’s home: from the beatings and cruel words to being banished to the garret, to removed from school to become a ‘tin basher’ at the local factory. Underfed, under loved and hoping for her father’s return, Kate soon finds herself unable to ‘stay’ with her wages being taken and now at 17 far more unwilling to take the abuse from her family. Struggle and hard work are nothing new, but a sign on a bookshop of all things opens new doors and opportunities for her.
Three jobs, two suitors: the struggles don’t end and the secrets continue to unfold as Kate’s journey continues. Her talent and ability to work metal into decorative items will be a saving grace for her- giving her options to ‘make her own way’ without the physical effects of the factory. From Bermondsey to Belgravia, Kate is quietly finding a new definition for herself, and answers about her past and family dynamics as she seeks to build her own life that both conforms to and contradicts society’s expectation. Engaging, readable and engrossing, each moment of revelation and remembrance brings Kate more fully to life, and allows readers to better relate to and understand the conditions and constraints of 1920’s London.
Title: The Bermondsey Bookshop
Author: Mary Gibson
Genre: British, Coming of Age, Edwardian, Family Saga, Friendship, Historic Elements, Historical Fiction, Romantic Elements, Setting: Britain, Sociological Relevancy
Published by: Aria
Published on: 6 February, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google
Set in 1920s London, this is the inspiring story of Kate Goss's struggle against poverty, hunger and cruel family secrets.
Her mother died in a fall, her father has vanished without trace, and now her aunt and cousins treat her viciously. In a freezing, vermin-infested garret, factory girl Kate has only her own brave spirit and dreams of finding her father to keep her going. She has barely enough money to feed herself, or to pay the rent. The factory where she works begins to lay off people and it isn't long before she has fallen into the hands of the violent local money-lender. That is until an unexpected opportunity comes her way – a job cleaning a most unusual bookshop, where anyone, from factory workers to dockers, can learn to read and then buy books cheaply. A new world opens up, but with it come new dangers, too.
Based on the true story of the Bermondsey Bookshop, this is the most inspiring and gripping novel Mary Gibson has yet written.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.