From New York Times bestselling author Michelle Gable comes a dual-narrative set at the famed Heywood Hill Bookshop in London about a struggling American writer on the hunt for a rumored lost manuscript written by the iconic Nancy Mitford—bookseller, spy, author, and aristocrat—during World War II.
“Gable’s witty narrative effortlessly moves between two time periods and is enriched with cameos by historical figures and authentic, memorable characters. Historical fiction fans will be riveted from the first page.” —Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)
In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics. Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay. Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…
MICHELLE GABLE is the New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, I’ll See You in Paris, The Book of Summer, and The Summer I Met Jack. She attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, and spent twenty years working in finance before becoming a full-time writer. She grew up in San Diego and lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband and two daughters. Find her at michellegable.com or on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, @MGableWriter.
My thoughts: like many I’m endlessly fascinated by the Mitford sisters, I’ve read several biographies, a collection of their letters, Nancy’s novels, a section of Debo’s memoirs (written when she was Duchess of Devonshire) and the Mitford Mysteries series (which features each sister solving crimes and is a bit silly). They’re just intriguing, even the fascist ones. They lived through an incredibly complex period of modern history and were very involved with many of the major figures of the day. So I jumped at the chance to be on the blog tour for this book, which features Nancy in wartime London.
It also has a modern day plot featuring a novelist going through a bit of a slump, like Nancy in the 1940s, Katie. She’s an American who arrives in London to stay with her best friend, and finds herself drawn into intrigue at the sane bookshop Nancy once worked in. She’s also a huge Mitford nerd and can’t resist trying to find a supposedly lost manuscript.
I really enjoyed the dual narratives, both Nancy and Katie are delightful characters, clever and interesting women in search of a story. Nancy will eventually find it in the form of the classic The Pursuit of Love, but will Katie also locate a new book and find love?
And then there’s Clive, who’s eight, madly in love with Katie, I want a whole book about him and all the trouble he gets into, £100 an hour IT support and all. I think he might be my favourite character.
I got a bit fed up with Simon for all he’s part of what drives Katie forward, teasing her with tiny parts of his family story, breadcrumbs when he could just be more upfront. It just seemed a bit mean. But I suppose if he did just give Katie everything he knew, there’d be no story!
This was tremendously enjoyable, fun, witty and entertaining, much like Nancy’s novels. A real pleasure to read. The characters come to life on the page, you’re right there with Nancy and her friends, camped out in the bookshop with nowhere else to go.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.