And my second short review today – and The Library by Bella Osborne is quite a departure from her usual romantic comedies. Published by Aria on 2nd September as an ebook on all major platforms (just 99p for kindle at the moment – and free via Kindle Unlimited), it’s now also available as an audiobook. The paperback will be published on 6th January – so perhaps my timing’s actually not that bad after all! My thanks to the publishers for my reading ecopy, provided via Netgalley.
I’ve mentioned before that I’d rather shamefully neglected Bella’s books – only one review before this year (of the first part of A Walk in Wildflower Park, Build Me Up Buttercup – you’ll find that here). What was putting me off her writing a little was that I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of books released in parts – although I do know there are lots of readers who love it. But this year, in July, I had the immense pleasure of trying her writing again with The Promise of Summer – and Bella had most certainly found a new and fervent fan. That book really was the perfect summer read – beautifully written, wonderful characters, both touching and hilarious, warm and uplifting, unashamedly romantic, filled with twists and turns that kept me entirely engaged in the story – and I loved every single moment (you can read my full review again here). I’d decided at that point that it was on my shortlist for my books of the year – but then I heard she was about to release another, that it was going to be something entirely different, and something she’d never tried before. As I already loved her writing, this was a book I was particularly looking forward to…
Two different generations. Two unusual people. Thrown together to save their local library.
Tom is a teenager and blends into the background of life. After a row with his dad, and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library. Tom unwittingly ends up with a bagful of romance novels and comes under the suspicion of Maggie.
Maggie is a pensioner and has been happily alone for ten years, at least that’s what she tells herself. When Tom comes to her rescue a friendship develops that could change her life. As Maggie helps Tom to stand up for himself, Tom helps Maggie realise the mistakes of her past don’t have to define her future.
They each set out to prove that the library isn’t just about books – it’s the heart of their community.
Together they discover some things are worth fighting for.
Tom believes he might be invisible – an awkward teenager who’s lost his mum, living with his alcoholic father, bullied at school, knowing he’s unlikely to escape a life working at the local dog food factory. Other than enjoying time with his Xbox, the only small light on his horizon is the possibility that the unattainable Farah might notice him – and that’s why he finds himself visiting the library she often inhabits, walking away with a bag full of romantic novels that might just let him find out more about girls and what makes them tick. And that’s where he meets Maggie – a lonely and isolated 72-year-old, living on a smallholding on the town’s fringes – and their friendship slowly develops as they join forces, fighting to save the library from closure while supporting each other.
The story is told from both their perspectives – Tom’s in the first person, Maggie’s in third – and their characters are quite beautifully developed and their voices perfectly captured. I grew to love them both really deeply – and their story was touching, tender, emotional, and beautifully told. And if the main characters are superbly drawn, so is the supporting cast – Christine the jobsworth librarian, the members of the library book club (only glimpses, but just wonderful), Maggie’s curmudgeonly farmer neighbour, the school bully, fragrant Farah and Tom’s struggling father. There’s plenty of gentle humour, but also moments that tear at your heart – the book addresses some quite difficult issues at times, but handles them with exceptional sensitivity. This was a book that really made me feel, with a few teary moments – but it was also joyous, heartwarming and so uplifting, and a book I thoroughly enjoyed.
And when I find a book I really enjoy, I often recommend it to my book club – who can sometimes be a little bit sniffy about the contemporary fiction I choose to read. Every one of them read this one, and every one of them thoroughly enjoyed it – and that just confirmed that this book really was something particularly special. I recommend it to everyone without reservation – one of my books of the year.
About the author
Bella Osborne has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. In 2016, her debut novel, It Started At Sunset Cottage, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award. Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories.
Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays. She lives in the Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).
For more about Bella, visit her website or follow her on social media: