BOOK REVIEW: The Underground Library by Jennifer Ryan


Title: The Underground Library
Author: Jennifer Ryan
Publication: March 12, 2024
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 512

Amazon |  Barnes and Noble |  Goodreads  |  Author Website

SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

When new deputy librarian, Juliet Lansdown, finds that Bethnal Green Library isn’t the bustling hub she’s expecting, she becomes determined to breathe life back into it. But can she show the men in charge that a woman is up to the task of running it, especially when a confrontation with her past threatens to derail her?

Katie Upwood is thrilled to be working at the library, although she’s only there until she heads off to university in the fall. But after the death of her beau on the front line and amid tumultuous family strife, she finds herself harboring a life-changing secret with no one to turn to for help.

Sofie Baumann, a young Jewish refugee, came to London on a domestic service visa only to find herself working as a maid for a man who treats her abominably. She escapes to the library every chance she can, finding friendship in the literary community and aid in finding her sister, who is still trying to flee occupied Europe.

When a slew of bombs destroy the library, Juliet relocates the stacks to the local Underground station where the city’s residents shelter nightly, determined to lend out stories that will keep spirits up. But tragedy after tragedy threatens to unmoor the women and sever the ties of their community. Will Juliet, Kate, and Sofie be able to overcome their own troubles to save the library? Or will the beating heart of their neighborhood be lost forever?


**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

I think I have read all of this author’s books as ARC’s.  I know when I request them I do so without even seeing what it is about.  They are an automatic go-to thing.  So when I got this one I was so excited to read it.  However, life got in the way and I started reading this book later than I wanted to.  I tried to read it multiple times but between tiredness and the lack of interest in the book.  I really wanted to like it but I was confused by all the character lines and it just wasn’t pulling me in like they normally do.  I decided to use my monthly audible credit and get this book and listen to it thinking maybe it would change the way I absorb the book. I was glad I did.  I listened to this book at every chance that I got. 

Sophie is a German Jew who is fleeing Berlin on a work visa as a housemaid.  Katie is a young woman who finds herself in the family way after her long-term boyfriend is declared MIA, she works at the library as a clerk.  Juliet is a young woman escaping her hometown after her fiance of 3 years deserts the English Army.  She takes a job at the Bethnal Green Library as Deputy Librarian.  These women’s lives intertwine in ways that you grow to love. Juliet has to get through the “red tape” so to speak of being a woman in a man’s world.  She is the one who starts the underground library in the tube station after the library is bombed in one of the Blitz bombings.  Katie tries to hide her pregnancy till her mother finds out and she loses it and states she will hide her pregnancy and the mother will fake hers.  Sophie is a housemaid for a not-so-nice man.  Julie and Katie know each other through working at the library and Sophie comes in to get books.  The story is sweeping, wonderful, and heartbreaking at the same time.  I adored every minute of this book. Its about books and that is a winner in my book.

I also like the ambulance worker portion of the books as I myself am an EMT.  It hit me on another level seeing people at their worst but doing your part for the community at large.  I thought that the characters’ stories melded well together.  I was annoyed at first with the switching of the storylines but eventually about a quarter of the way through the book the stories come to the point where they are intertwined with each other and it wasn’t an issue.  I loved all of the secondary characters that were in the book. They were the comic relief in some parts and deep and meaningful in others.  I wanted each and every one of them to succeed.  The author’s note at the end states that while the events in the book really happened she just changed some of the locations so that it flowed well with her book.  I had no clue that the underground subway actually housed clinics and libraries.  I knew that people used them as air raid shelters in the war but didn’t know the extent of everything else. I think the author knocked another one out of the park and have recommended it to some people all ready.  I can’t wait to see what she writes next. 

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *