Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Book Review: The Bookseller's Secret by Michelle Gable

Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 17, 2021
Publisher: Graydon House
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Book of Summer
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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…"


Nancy Mitford is living in London during WWII. The city is currently being bombed and everything is a mess.  Nancy takes a job at the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war.  Nancy is known around town though; in fact, all of her siblings are notorious.  One of her sisters is a Hitler sympathizer, another is a fascist, and the other is a duchess, to just name a few.  Nancy takes the job at the bookshop because things with her husband aren't great, she needs the money, and she had to quit writing. All of this inspires her to start writing again.  Jump to present day, readers meet struggling author Katie.  While on her visit to London, she visits Heywood Hill bookshop and while there, she meets someone who convinces her that Nancy Mitford wrote a memoir and it went unpublished.  This man would like to find this memoir as it's important to him and his family.  Katie, who is up for anything at this point thanks to writer's block, helps him and as things progress, she is greatly intrigued by what she comes to find.  Michelle Gable's The Bookseller's Secret is a decent historical tale for those who enjoy stories focusing about strong real-life women and WWII.

I only knew a few things about Nancy Mitford before reading The Bookseller's Secret and I was really enamored with Nancy right off the bat.  I loved her gumption, her personality, and found her to be very entertaining, especially when she would interact with Evelyn Waugh. Nancy grew up in an aristocratic family. A few of her sisters have made a name for themselves politically as they have close ties to the Nazis.  However, Nancy wants to separate herself from them as she doesn't agree.  

Even though Nancy has come from a wealthy background, she has dealt with a lot.  She experienced multiple miscarriages that led to her hysterectomy, her marriage is a sham, her husband is off at war and she hasn't heard from him.   However, Nancy is still a charismatic person who wants to make her mark in life.  I loved that she took over Heywood Hill bookshop and I really enjoyed the depiction of the bookshop and its customers.  I also really liked the fact that she was a writer and overall, I found Nancy's story to be truly fascinating. 

To be honest with you, the dual timeline didn't really work for me in The Bookseller's Secret.  I did not care for Katie nor her pursuit of the missing manuscript mostly because I found her to be insufferable. She makes such a commotion at a family party and goes off the deep end (over nothing really) that I just found her to be like a petulant child.  I did not like the sections of the novel focusing on her even though I was curious about her literary investigations.

I do think that if The Bookseller's Secret focused only on Nancy or had a more likable present day narrator, it would have worked a bit better.  I will say that Nancy is such a larger than life person that she probably doesn't need a foil; in fact, she needs her own book. Nancy, and only Nancy's amazing life, brings this book's rating up a smidgen. 

So, with that said, do you enjoy books about real-life people? Have you heard about Nancy Mitford? Is The Bookseller's Secret on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 


  1. I generally enjoy dual timeline stories, but yeah, sometimes one of the timelines feels unnecessary. Seems like that in this case!

    1. Yes, that definitely was! I would have enjoyed an entire book dedicated to Nancy. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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