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The Last Chance Library

by Freya Sampson

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson X
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Aug 2021, 336 pages

    Aug 2021, 336 pages


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There are currently 28 reader reviews for The Last Chance Library
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Loren B. (Appleton, WI)

I really enjoyed this book. It had a Hallmark Movie kind of vibe to it, but I mean that in a good way. The characters were believable and (mostly) likable. I found myself caring and rooting for them (especially June).

Kris Anderson

Predictable Story
The Last Chance Library is Freya Sampson’s debut novel. June Jones is a library assistant whose life revolves around work, home, and books. June has not been able to move forward with her life since the death of her mother eight years earlier. When the Chalcot library is threatened with closure, the townspeople rally to save it and expect June to lead the charge. Unfortunately, June has trouble with large crowds and speaking in front of anyone including children at Rhyme Time. The local residents form FOCL (Friends of Chalcot Library) and work to keep the library they love with some help from a helpful anonymous insider. The Last Chance Library sounded like such a fun story which is why I was disappointed with the end result. I found the pacing to be slow with expected characters. There are some quirky residents like Vera and Mrs. B (she is really over-the-top). I loved Stanley. He was a kind soul. Our protagonist, June is a timid woman who seems afraid to live. Being afraid of public speaking myself, I could relate to her fear. I just expected more from the main character. I wanted to see her leading the charge and coming up with creative ideas to save the place she loved. The ending was a mixed bag. Most of the story followed a predictable path, and I like how things ended for the library. June’s story was disenchanting. There is a potential romance for June with old school chum, Alex. I never felt any sparks between the pair and the pairing felt forced. I was especially offended by the amount of foul language in The Last Chance Library. I did enjoy the book references and how the library patrons worked to save their local book haven. A library is so much more than a place to get books. That is the one thing that non-book lovers fail to see. It is a place to meet other people, get help with homework, use the computer, watch a movie, learn a new skill, and where our children can learn to love books as much as we do. My favorite quote from The Last Chance Library is, “You are never alone when you have a good book.” While The Last Chance Library is not my cup of tea, it does appeal to others. You should read a sample, to see if The Last Chance Library is for you. The Last Chance Library is a debut novel with a bevy of books, a shocking closure, a bully for a boss, activist patrons, and a tentative library assistant.
Antoinette B. (Charlottesville, VA)

A Library For All
I found this a sweet story. It would be a good bookclub book if your group likes more of a simplistic story. There are definitely things to discuss. This book deals with life's struggles and loss. I found the pace slow and the characters rather boring. She did however show how important libraries are to small communities. I found there were parts I wanted to be more expanded and others to know less about.
Erin J. (Milwaukie, OR)

Enjoyable but for the cliches
What I loved best about this book was that the author correctly identifies June as a library assistant and NOT a librarian. Becoming an actual librarian involves earning a bachelor's degree in any field AND a master's degree in library science. June hasn't been to college at all and therefore cannot be a librarian. Most people who work at libraries are assistants, and not librarians. Doesn't mean June isn't good at her job; it just means her training and experience is different.

I also loved getting to know the quirky characters, despite them each being well-known stereotypes: the homeless man, the brilliant child, the elderly curmudgeon, the outspoken voracious reader who hates all the books, the teenager seeking a quiet place to study, and the recent immigrant trying to make a go of it in her new home. I loved the way June's fantasies merged into Mrs. B's rants or queries from other patrons. I enjoyed watching June take steps into the world and cringed when she crumpled or was crushed by the Mean Girls. And I appreciated that the plot took a few zigs and zags to keep things a bit less predictable. Also June's impromptu scheme to kill two birds with one stone by redirecting Rocky away from the "hen do" and toward the FOCL rally cracked me up.

What I could have done without were the cliches--like her curly hair being pulled into a tight bun, her uber-lonely life with books as her only true friends, or the fact that despite working in a library for TEN YEARS, she seemed to have never read anything written in this century. I get that June's mom dressed her in random stuff from thrift shops, and she was a nerdy kid, but there is simply no way she was that isolated or clueless. Hurt by her best friend's betrayal, yes, but to the point of never ever making another friend? That just feels like the author is belittling the intelligence and social capabilities of readers, which sets my teeth on edge.

I haven't researched the state of British libraries, so I cannot speak to the likelihood of closures like this where over half the council seems oblivious to the obvious benefits to society of having a functional, funded library, or where greedy council members push a nefarious agenda, but it was reminiscent of both The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan and The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, so maybe it's a trend in the U.K. & Ireland?

Overall this book was a solid 3 stars out of 5 for me. I liked it, but it had serious flaws also.

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