With everything going on in the world, reading offers us an escape into worlds where there is a bit of normality and a sense of hope. The Littlest Library is one of those books that encompasses all of these things and by the end of it I was left with that warm fuzzy feeling only a good contemporary fiction book can provide.
The heart of The Littlest Library is the fact that the written word is a powerful force in enabling people to reflect and grow. Whether its from rediscovering a book or genre they loved as a child or by reading something new, they take something away from it that allows them to move forward or realise a dream or ambition that they always had. It also demonstrates that one persons action can make a difference in many different ways to the community or those around them.
The character that is central to all these themes in The Littlest Library is Jess, who having lost her beloved Grandmother, followed shortly by losing her job as a librarian, take a very uncharacteristic leap of faith to buy a little cottage that requires quite a bit of love and care, in a quintessential English village. Then, because of some fine print in her deeds, she becomes the custodian of The Littlest Library, which is housed in the former red Telephone box at the bottom of her garden.
From here, we join Jess on her own journey of self-discovery, as her neighbours quickly become friends and little family to Jess. And while she grows under their friendship, she in turn (with a little help from her late Grandmothers collection of books) helps her new friends in many aspects of their lives.
For me, this is what makes the little village of Middlemass really come to life. (Full disclosure, I didn’t know that Middlemass was a real place and that its situated in Devon until very recently.) Alexander fills her fictional take of the village with so many different people from different walks of life. Each person, though at first glance may appear to be happy in the village, has their own trials and tribulations that every reader may relate to. And while I empathise with many of the characters, time and time again, I was drawn to Jess. For here is a woman who is quiet and is very much a bookworm. Yet, when it comes to books, you see her come alive. Whether its setting up the library or looking at putting together a list of reading material for the local school, she really shines through.
While this journey of self discovery is a joy to read, you can’t have a book set in a small village without a bit of local political conflict going on in the parish council. It just so happens that poor Jess and the little library are bang smack in the middle. If anyone hear about the local parish meeting over Zoom, that descended into a conflict of personalities, you know how vicious these can get. Though the one in the book isn’t quite as bad, you could see the tension building until it reaches a climax of sorts. (Diana, the leader of the Parish Council should think about pursuing her political career further).
The other major part of this book is Aiden, Jess’s next door neighbour and the person who she bought the little cottage off of. He is not the conventional leading man, at least not compared to some of the leading men I have read in other contemporary fiction books, but he did begin to grow on me and by the end of the book I was all for where the relationship with Jess was going. You could tell that he was going through a lot at the time of Jess’s arrival and though the friendship between them slowly builds, the pay off is all the more sweeter. It was really nice to have this change of pace.
Overall, this really was the antidote for a dreary March and the message that I took away from it was one of hope. Hope that better things are to come and hope that around that corner you will find what you are looking for if you take that leap of faith. By the end of the book I may have seriously considered looking at buying a small cottage with its very own little red telephone box at the bottom. To anyone looking for a way to take a breather from the world we are in just now, you can’t go wrong by visiting The Littles Library.