The Bookseller's Secret by Michelle Gable
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525806469
Trade paperback, $16.99, 400 pages
I've always seen books by and about Nancy Mitford (and her famous sisters) but haven't yet read one. After reading Michelle Gable's fascinating novel, The Bookseller's Secret, where Nancy Mitford plays a large role, I have already made a list of books about Mitford to add to my To-Be-Read pile.
We begin the novel in the present day with a young woman named Katie struggling in her career as a novelist. She had one successful book, and now her engagement to her boyfriend of many years is over. When her best friend Jojo offers to pay Katie's airfare to come to London stay with her, her husband and four young children, Katie gratefully accepts.
Jojo tells Katie about a very special bookstore, G. Heywood Hill Ltd., where the owner is a book concierge for a mostly wealthy clientele. For a large sum of money Felix will compile a personal library, consisting of books unique to each customer's interests. (My dream job!)
Author Nancy Mitford worked at the G. Heywood Hill Ltd. bookstore during WWII. Nancy is one of six sisters, some of whom are notorious for being friends with Hitler, as well as being Fascists and Communists, and she was friends with famous writers of the day, like Evelyn Waugh, who hung out at the bookshop. (Picture "Friends" as a group of intellectuals on a WWII BBC show.)
Katie becomes intrigued by the rumor that Nancy Mitford had written a memoir, and that Felix was in possession of it, which he vehemently denies. Then she meets Simon, a school principal, who was also looking for Mitford's memoir for reasons of his own.
The characters in this novel are so interesting and well drawn. Nancy Mitford jumps off the page, with her clever quips and saucy attitude. It's impossible not to fall in love with her. Between her infamous family, her husband at war whom she hasn't heard from in three years, the French colonel who she falls in love with, her mission as a spy for Britain, and her struggles to write her next book, Nancy has a fascinating life. If you are a Nancy Mitford fan, you'll definitely want to read The Bookseller's Secret.
Other intriguing characters include Katie's grandmother, who is about to be kicked out her fantasy football league for her bad behavior, Jojo and her precocious son Clive, who is a real hoot. All three of these made me laugh. I also appreciated that the author wrote an informative real-life epilogue for several of the characters we meet.
The question that lingers is "did Nancy Mitford write a memoir and if she did, where is it?" You'll have to read The Bookseller's Secret to find out. I highly recommend that you do.
Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on the Summer 2021 Historical Fiction Reads Tour.