The Bookbinder

Ballantine. Aug. 2023. 448p. ISBN 9780593600443. $28. F
Williams (The Dictionary of Lost Words) brilliantly weaves a new thread into her world of words at Oxford University. Peggy Jones has been told her whole life to bind the books, not read them, but as a child her love of words grew despite her limited access. Now, as the Great War looms and steals Britain’s men and boys, the women of the Oxford University bindery must step into new roles to keep their small town running. Between volunteering to read to wounded soldiers, welcoming Belgian refugees, and taking on the tasks of the men who have left for battle, Peggy loses hope that her own desire for a higher education will ever come to be. Relentless in her pursuit of knowledge, she pushes past her own fears into a new, unknown world. With heartfelt characters, a bit of romance, and a bleak and deeply sad place in time, Williams’s novel is a deft story about the meaning of words, who is allowed access, and how they’re inevitably interpreted.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction about strong women, like the works of Kate Quinn, Beatriz Williams, and Laura Willig.
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