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.”
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I’ve grown to love historical fiction books that follow a dual timeline, one in the past and one in present day. The War Librarian (Amazon) is different in that the timelines are WWII France and instead of a modern timeline, we get a look at the US Naval Academy circa 1976 when women were first allowed admittance.
The War Librarian is all about female empowerment, which I loved. Emmaline is not a character who seems out-of-place in her time as sometimes happens with historical fiction’s feminists. She’s a free thinker because of her love of books, and after several years working in the Dead Letter Office in Washington, D.C., she gets a job as a librarian on the front line in France. Kathleen is also a free thinker who was raised by her grandmother who served as a motor car driver in France during WWI. She is facing the challenge of being in the first class of midshipmen women at the naval academy.
Both women face adversity throughout the book. There’s a romance for Emmaline, but it isn’t heavy handed and the love scene was not too graphic. Kathleen’s character wisely does not have romantic entanglements, which is good because she’s got enough to worry about, trying to fit in with the 1200 men at the academy.
I was shocked to learn that the author, Addison Armstrong, is relatively young, because her writing does not betray that fact. It’s crisp and clean, she keeps the narrative going smoothly and quickly. It only took me a few hours to read this book because it was interesting and written so well. I do have to say that there was one aspect of the book that had my scratching my head for most of the book, wondering why we were following one narrative but not another, but it all made sense as the story progressed and neared it’s conclusion.
Overall, The War Librarian was a very satisfactory book. I learned about the ALA’s efforts during WWI, and I also learned about the groundbreaking class of 1980 midshipmen at the US Naval Academy. I highly recommend this book!
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