The Bookbinder by Pip Williams

After enjoying The Dictionary of Lost Words last year, I was quite excited to get a chance to check out The Bookbinder by Pip Williams.

My Thoughts:

In the years surrounding World War 1, Peggy is a book bindery girl, responsible for her twin, Maude, and dreaming of a life where she reads books at the university, not binds them. As the war progresses and Belgian refugees come to their city, Peggy begins to realize that there is a chance she can rise above her station, with the help of old and new friends.

I really enjoyed this book, Peggy is a relatable character, torn between loyalty to her sister, duty to her family, and her own aspirations for something greater than her current path. The reader can't help but hope that Peggy does well, feeling how unjust it was for her to be bound to a life of monotony when her intellect allowed for so much more. I also really enjoyed more of the WW1 storyline as so many novels feature WW2 lately. It's interesting to read how Europe was during the war, especially prior to the Americans deciding to join.

I do think my favorite part might have been the tiny references to The Dictionary of Lost Words that work their way into the book bindery's daily work. The novel is not a true crossover and the references do not require one to have read Dictionary, but it was a pleasant surprise to see the little relations within the books.

About The Bookbinder:

It is 1914, and as the war draws the young men of Britain away to fight, women must keep the nation running. Two of those women are Peggy and Maude, twin sisters who live on a narrow boat in Oxford and work in the bindery at the university press.

Ambitious, intelligent Peggy has been told for most of her life that her job is to bind the books, not read them—but as she folds and gathers pages, her mind wanders to the opposite side of Walton Street, where the female students of Oxford’s Somerville College have a whole library at their fingertips. Maude, meanwhile, wants nothing more than what she has: to spend her days folding the pages of books in the company of the other bindery girls. She is extraordinary but vulnerable, and Peggy feels compelled to watch over her.

Then refugees arrive from the war-torn cities of Belgium, sending ripples through the Oxford community and the sisters’ lives. Peggy begins to see the possibility of another future where she can educate herself and use her intellect, not just her hands. But as war and illness reshape her world, her love for a Belgian soldier—and the responsibility that comes with it—threaten to hold her back.

Purchase The Bookbinder on Amazon.