Monday, August 08, 2022

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong

First Line: November 1918. The familiar light-headedness overtook me.
1918. Emmaline Balakin has worked in the Dead Letter Office for a few years now, content to live her life through the books she reads. Then a letter finds its way to her desk that reminds her of someone in her past. Determined to start really living, she volunteers for the Library War Service and is sent to France, but a secret book club she forms may send her home in disgrace.
1976. Kathleen Carre is a member of the first coed class at the U.S. Naval Academy, and she's eager to prove to her beloved grandmother-- and everyone else-- that she deserves the honor. However, not everyone wants women in the Academy. When tragedy strikes Kathleen, someone uses this to make her a target, putting her entire naval career in jeopardy. 


Both timelines, both stories, in Addison Armstrong's The War Librarian kept me reading. For one thing, I'd had no idea that there was such a thing as the Library War Service in World War I. Furthermore, I hadn't read anything related to the first coed class at the Naval Academy. Those two points alone guaranteed my interest, and I appreciated the author's notes at the end of the book telling of her research.

Both Emmaline and Kathleen are united by more than just their experiences, which becomes clearer as the story progresses. Emmaline comes face-to-face with racism and censorship, while Kathleen has more than her share of gender bias and ignorance. When reading the part where Kathleen and the other women attend a mandatory class in which the male instructor tells them that "The hymen... is often broken during childbirth," I choked as I was swallowing a mouthful of iced tea. Superficially funny, the incidents those women in that first coed class had to face became maddening (and not much different from what women are facing today). 

The War Librarian shows us the power of friendship, of family, of women. There's nothing particularly earth-shattering in its pages, but readers don't always need to be shaken to bits when they pick up a book. What they will find when they start reading The War Librarian is a solid, engrossing read that's a good way to spend an afternoon.

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong
eISBN: 9780593328071
G.P. Putnam's Sons © 2022
eBook, 384 pages
Historical Fiction, Standalone
Rating: B
Source: Net Galley


  1. I didn't know there was a War Library Service, either, Cathy! How interesting! I always do like learning as I read, especially if it's done in a way that doesn't feel burdensome, if that makes sense. And sometimes, a book that just tells about people's lives can be just the ticket.

  2. More parts of WWII history that I did not know about. Though it almost sounds as if each character and timeline could have been their own book.

    1. I think I would have preferred it that way, Lark. I would've liked to have gotten to know both characters better.

  3. This sounds like an informative read. I love learning about history through stories!


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