Reviews of The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong

The War Librarian

by Addison Armstrong

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong X
The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong
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    Aug 2022, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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Book Summary

The Paris Library meets The Flight Girls in this captivating historical novel about the sacrifice and courage necessary to live a life of honor, inspired by the first female volunteer librarians during World War I and the first women accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy.

Two women. One secret. A truth worth fighting for.

1918. Timid and shy Emmaline Balakin lives more in books than her own life. That is, until an envelope crosses her desk at the Dead Letter Office bearing a name from her past, and Emmaline decides to finally embark on an adventure of her own—as a volunteer librarian on the frontlines in France. But when a romance blooms as she secretly participates in a book club for censored books, Emmaline will need to find more courage within herself than she ever thought possible in order to survive.

1976. Kathleen Carre is eager to prove to herself and to her nana that she deserves her acceptance into the first coed class at the United States Naval Academy. But not everyone wants female midshipmen at the Academy, and after tragedy strikes close to home, Kathleen becomes a target. To protect herself, Kathleen must learn to trust others even as she discovers a secret that could be her undoing.

Chapter 1
Emmaline Balakin
September 1918

I stood stiffly at the ship's railing and watched New Jersey recede into the distance: the smokestacks puffing, the ships docked at the Hoboken wharf, the industrial warehouses stacked high as the USS Aeolus's mast. I could no longer make out the shapes of the people on land, but I knew they were there. Only a half hour ago, I'd looked down from this very spot and watched soldiers and sailors scurrying around the dockyards. Only half an hour before that, I'd sat in a motorcar and looked out at a silent town of women and children.

I'd grown used to the sight of wives without husbands and children without fathers. And I'd grown used to being alone. The anonymous gray shoreline now seemed a reflection of my own flat and gloomy half-life—I didn't know whether leaving would be the beginning of my story or the end of it.

I fingered Nicholas's letter in my pocket like a talisman and prayed this journey would be not just a blip in my life but the ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Armstrong's story has remarkable depth. Emmaline and Kathleen are two very different individuals, but they both experience significant character growth throughout the story, due largely to the discrimination they're forced to endure. The War Librarian is a book about the power of the written word, as well as a story about following your dreams and fighting inequality in whatever way possible. Fans of strong female leads will enjoy seeing Emmaline and Kathleen overcome adversity, while lovers of historical fiction will appreciate the unique perspectives and the connection between the dual timelines...continued

Full Review Members Only (570 words).

(Reviewed by Jordan Lynch).

Media Reviews

Historical Novels Review
Gripping…Once again, Armstrong has crafted a tale of two women battling the status quo in historical eras that are relevant today…Dual timelines can be tricky, but Armstrong aligns hers perfectly so the issues each woman is dealing with run parallel. Readers won't want to put this one down.

Booklist
If one can measure a novel's success by the emotions it draws from readers, the sophomore work by Armstrong is very effective indeed. Romance and long-held secrets provide additional intrigue in this increasingly powerful story. The values of intellectual freedom, antiracist activism, and female friendship are illustrated within their historical contexts, yet these themes couldn't be timelier.

Library Journal
Armstrong's dark and disturbing tale of prejudice, discrimination, determination, and bravery will resonate with readers caught up in the same issues today.

Publishers Weekly
[E]xciting...The dual story lines masterfully reflect how nominal moves toward institutional inclusion can belie the persistence of cultures of exclusion. Historical fans will devour this intimate story about fighting for dignity and respect during trying times.

Author Blurb Ann Mah, author of The Lost Vintage
The War Librarian is a touching story of courage and female friendship, with two heroines who will win you over with their honesty, integrity, and resilience—I found myself cheering for them until the very last page!

Author Blurb Jennifer Chiaverini, author of The Women's March
The War Librarian is a compelling and inspiring tribute to the courageous, groundbreaking women who risked their lives to pursue their heart's desire even when—especially when—their ambitions led them into places where women were at best unexpected, and at worst, fiercely opposed.

Author Blurb Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends
Shining light upon the work of the original war librarians, Addison Armstrong not only offers a tribute to the power of books and libraries, but also manifests the unconventional lives of two women separated by fifty years, both determined to defy society's limitations and forge futures that break the mold. Emmaline and Kathleen stand as worthy testimony to all the women who have blazed trails where none existed before.

Reader Reviews

Elizabeth@Silver's Reviews

Elizabeth@Silver'sReviews - excellent writing, but dragged for me
We meet two strong women who are determined to make their way in a man's world. We meet Emmaline Balakin in 1918 who after working in the dead letter office for five years volunteers to be the librarian in France during the war. Delivering books ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Library War Service

Library War Service logo image featuring soldier holding tall stack of booksThe War Librarian features quiet, bookish Emmaline Balakin, who, despite the dangers of World War I, chooses to set off on an adventure by serving as a volunteer librarian to American service members. Her new position sends her overseas to a frontline hospital in France where she must contend with surly officers, German bombers and social injustices while trying to bring comfort and happiness to the men through books. Addison Armstrong's novel showcases a unique bit of WWI history that demonstrates the power of the written word.

As American service members were mobilized to fight, military leaders wanted to ensure that the soldiers had strong support systems to sustain them during their time overseas. In addition to the expected items &#...

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