June Jones had planned to leave her home town for university, but a family emergency kept her in Chalcot, the small English village, and she developed a solitary existence working at the library and spending time immersed in books. As her world shrank, so did her self-confidence. Yet, she adhered to her routine, and she loved her job, even though her boss, Marjorie, was insufferable.
Her ordered existence, however, is disrupted when the council announced budget constraints would lead to closing some of the libraries in the district. At first, June avoids explicitly aligning with “FOCL” (Friends of Chalcot Library), but watching the devoted patrons fighting for the library and understanding all the ways the library is essential to them inspires her to take a stand for what she believes. Her new friendships make her realize her loneliness, and she even rekindles communication with Alex Cheng, a classmate from London in town helping at his family’s restaurant. Despite June’s efforts and the rising community support, powerful forces are at work behind the scenes against the library.
I loved the library setting and all the library denizens. They were interesting secondary characters who showed that libraries are more than repositories of books. Once their backstories were revealed, they also challenged stereotypes. I also liked the age diversity—a precocious young boy to an elderly man and everything in between.
June at times frustrated me, she was so conflict-averse. On the one hand, I share that trait so empathize. On the other, June really let Marjorie take advantage of her and demand inappropriate personal tasks.
While there is a romance between June and Alex, it’s not the focus of the book, and I even wish that there had been more scenes with him. The book reminded me more of A Man Called Ove or All the Lonely People told from a thirty-year-old’s perspective.