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The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin

Underground newspapers. Coded messages. Secret identities. Unintentional spies during World War II. Neither Ava nor Elaine would have dreamed of becoming a spy, but they’ll do whatever they can in the fight against the Nazis.

Back cover copy: Ava thought her job as a librarian at the Library of Congress would mean a quiet, routine existence. But an unexpected offer from the U.S. military has brought her to Lisbon with a new mission: posing as a librarian while working undercover as a spy gathering intelligence.

Meanwhile, in occupied France, Elaine has begun an apprenticeship at a printing press run by members of the Resistance. It’s a job usually reserved for men, but in the war, those rules have been forgotten. Yet she knows that the Nazis are searching for the press and its printer in order to silence them.

As the battle in Europe rages, Ava and Elaine find themselves connecting through coded messages and discovering hope in the face of war.

My review: Life often veers from what we plan and people often have many more layers than we realize. Ava and Elaine both learn these lessons multiple times in their personal and professional lives — and they’re lessons that readers will do well to learn for themselves. Ava and Elaine are both stronger than they realize and capable of doing things they never imagined. They’re living in very different circumstances during the war and are dealing with life-threatening situations, yet both still remain hopeful and compassionate. They both dare to help others despite the risks and give readers glimpses into aspects of World War II that aren’t often seen. Personally, the book nerd in me loved that so much of the story revolved around books and libraries. I also loved the different settings, such as Portugal, and learned about aspects of life during the war that I hadn’t read about before. I was equally intrigued by Ava and Elaine’s stories and thought they dovetailed nicely (and realistically) as they did what was needed in order to survive. They both experienced horrible things, yet even on their most difficult days they persevered because of their desire to help others and determination to fight against evil. Even when our actions or decisions don’t seem of great importance in our own lives, they can have great — and long lasting — impacts on others.

Faith element: Because The Librarian Spy isn’t written or marketed as Christian fiction, so there aren’t any specific faith threads or opportunities to see characters learn more about their faith or watch their relationship with God grow. However, the relationships, language and other aspects of The Librarian Spy are clean, which is why I chose to share a review.

Who should read it: Fans of historical fiction (especially set during World War II) should enjoy The Librarian Spy. There are a few mentions of some gory interrogation tactics the Nazis would use, but none were described in detail. Although The Librarian Spy is not shelved as a young adult book, I think it’s appropriate for teens and older. (Please note that I haven’t read any other books by Madeline Martin, so don’t know if my labels of “clean” and “appropriate for teens” also apply to those.)

Book details: The Librarian Spy

Author: Madeline Martin

Genre: Historical

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Publish date: July 2022

Author website: 

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