By: Freya Sampson
Publication Date: August 31, 2021
Reviewed by: Kimberly Trix Lee
Review Date: May 16, 2021
Have you ever asked yourself: in the midst of trouble, what would your favorite character do? More importantly, would you be able to do the same? June Jones found her answers in The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson.
The story follows one June Jones, an introverted and reclusive assistant librarian of a local public library in a small British village. June spends her days with the library’s patrons - from helping gentle old Stanley use the computer to checking out books for fiery Mrs. B to recommending books to 8-year-old wonder boy Jackson. June then spends her evenings (and birthdays!) curled up with a book.
When June was younger, she had lofty dreams of going places, studying at Cambridge, and eventually becoming a famous writer. When her mother got diagnosed with cancer, June decided to put her life plans on hold and stay in their village to take care of her mother. She then also started working at the Chalcot Public Library where her mother used to work as a librarian. Years after her mother has passed away, June found herself in her late twenties with her life plans still on hold. She is now working full-time as an assistant librarian in the very same library, still living in the very same house, and still cocooning herself within the comforts of her books.
This peaceful little world that June claimed for herself is soon threatened when the council announces the closure of six libraries, including the Chalcot Public Library, the heart of June’s community. The library’s most loyal patrons decide to form a protest group and stage a campaign to stand up for the library that helped them all in many different ways. Everyone is involved in one way or another, except for June. Her being introverted aside, June has been informed by her boss that under no circumstances could a library worker be involved in any of these protests and campaigns. She is not even allowed to tell any of them about this restriction. June declines the group and is then branded a traitor. The library - second home to some, a safe haven for others, and a representation of her mother’s memories - is on the verge of closure and June feels powerless to do anything about it.
But what would Matilda do? June decides that if she can't support the protest group in the frontline then she would help them from the shadows. In the middle of doing her day job, managing her unwilling involvement in a hen do, and figuring out her feelings for her charming former schoolmate Alex Chen, June, together with the eclectic group of the library’s staunchest supporters, fight against corporate greed to protect what matters.
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson is a delightful read about an unwilling and awkward heroine and her journey to find the strength to rise up to the occasion and raise her voice to protect something that she believes is worth protecting. June Jones’ character development is realistic and it was delightful to read about her increasingly bold attempts to fight for the library. Freya Sampson did an incredible job in developing the side characters and their dynamics, showing their similarities and stark differences, and giving us a glimpse of what is underneath the cover pages of these people’s lives. The humor, when it appears, is spot-on. It is casual offhand humor that takes you by surprise and gets you laughing out loud in the middle of the night. There are happy moments, there are hilarious moments, and then there are heartbreaking moments - this book will make you feel a whole range of emotions. This also has plenty of literary references and name drops that would make any book lover’s eye twinkle with delight.
Quill says: This is an ode to all readers and book lovers who understand that there is more to a library than just books and there is more to people than meets the eye.