Book Title: The Bookshop on Primrose Hill
Author: Sarah Jio
Edition: NetGalley > Ebook
Length: ~336 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Womens Fiction
Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own.
Valentina Baker was only eleven years old when her mother, Eloise, suddenly fled to London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, Val is fresh out of a failed marriage and utterly disenchanted with life.
One day, Val receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to both her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the bookshop she opened twenty years ago. As Val jets across the Atlantic, she wonders – could this be her chance at a new beginning?
In London, Val finds herself falling in love with the pastel-coloured flat and the cosy, treasure-filled bookshop. When she stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, it’s the start of a scavenger hunt that will take her all over London and back in time… but most of all, bring her closer to the mother she lost twice.
Bittersweet and uplifting, The Bookshop on Primrose Hill will steal your heart. Perfect for fans of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Published in the US as With Love from London.
‘Look at the stars up there, fighting to be seen through all these city lights. It’s like a battle between two opposing forces: eternity versus modernity.’
I smiled up at him curiously. ‘Eternity for the win?’
‘Eternity always wins,’ he continued. ‘And that is the greatest comfort, isn’t it?’
I wasn’t entirely sure of his meaning, but I liked it, nonetheless. He gestured toward the city while I listened, enraptured.
‘Man built all that, invented it, created it. And as remarkable as it all is, the stars were here first.’ He took a deep breath. ‘They’re wiser.’
Can a mother-daughter duo, separated and estranged, connect once more when one of them is no longer around? Two generations and two people, who were once dear and close to each other, separated by oceans, misunderstandings, and hurt, are finally reunited in one last mother and daughter scavenger hunt as Val begins to go through this last gift from her mother to piece together all the history she has missed.
This book is told in two perspectives: one of Valentina’s in the present and one of her mother’s (Eloise) in the past. In the middle of a nasty divorce after her husband left her for another woman, Valentina ends up as the new owner of a bookshop in London, England, one that she inherits from her estranged mother, after her passing, and one she did not anticipate on holding onto. Her plans were to travel to England and just sell the store; after all, she holds no feelings or attachments to the place, neighborhood, or even her mother who had disappeared when she was twelve with not a single peep since then. It isn’t until she discovers her mother’s final gift to her, a scavenger hunt, that she begins to fall for the neighborhood and its people and get to know her mother, once more, through the lens of these neighbors.
I adored the writing in this book. It was the first thing I noticed. The characters were well written and had wonderful voices to their distinct personalities. I adored both the different time pieces, the past with Eloise and the present with Val and her own newfound friends. The interactions between the characters were great too, and the prose was beautiful. Easy to read and flowing really well, the writing was full of emotions through the entire read, enough to have me crying through a good chunk of it.
The pacing towards the beginning was a bit slow. Things are just starting to get a move on with Val realizing she may be staying here, in her mother’s old flat, for good, and she settles into both her new home/neighborhood and the puzzle that her mother leaves her. All the same, Eloise dives into the entire history behind Val’s father as well as her own first love. Things really take off towards the middle, where both the mother and daughter are going through their own major crises, but slightly different times so that one story is just a little more nerve wrecking than the other, and you want to hurry through the less anxious one, so that you can see what happens next; of course, it repeats later when we go through the other major conflict in the other storyline down the road.
There are some wonderful characters from both sides of the story, but more from Valentina’s as she meets a community of folks who knows her mother more and better than she has ever known. Through them, her opinion of the estranged Eloise would slowly change, and it’s such a wonderful neighborhood of beautiful people. All sorts of customers stop by to tell her of the difference that Eloise has played in their lives, such as a character (around Val’s age) who knew Eloise all the way back to when he was a child listening to her during story time events that she would host.
Despite the disconnect between Valentina and her mother, the two are still able to communicate, albeit a one-way connection and via letters. On one end, the reader gets to know Eloise better as she tells of her tale of how she fell in love and how Valentina came to be. On the other end is Valentina going about her usual days, while occasionally coming across new clues for the next letter location.
This was a lovely book and though it felt a bit slow for me in the beginning, most of the rest of the book had me running through with tears in my eyes. I knew that there was something major and way more to Eloise than just “the mother who took off on her husband and daughter, never to be heard from again.” The ending is very sweet, and I’m glad that many of the characters, including Valentina herself, seems to eventually find some form of peace. With Eloise’s tale being one of tragedy and Valentina’s almost like one of closure, I really enjoyed how the book finishes off, especially given the multiple obstacles both mother and daughter run into throughout the book. This is a heartwarming story about family, a mother’s love for her daughter, and about community. The neighborhood is so tight-knit that I almost envy Valentina and would love to just live on Primrose Hill myself.
A very touching read, Sarah Jio is a new author to me, and I’m eager to read more. Her writing is beautiful, her characters warm, and the story engaging. I really enjoyed this book and if you love family books with a bit of romance and mystery (a scavenger hunt), this may be a good book for you to curl up to.