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A heartwarming and beautifully written story spawning across two timelines.
The plot takes place in New York City in 1941 and in New Hampshire in 1984, featuring two strong (but very different) couples and their love lives. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the novel examines the rising tide of anti-Semitic sentiment that was sweeping through the American upper classes and the impact it had on those who were caught in its wake.
Ashlyn Greer grew up in New Hampshire as an only child. After the death of both her parents when she was young, Ashlyn finds solace within the walls of an antique bookstore. When she discovers her special gift of psychometry at twelve years old, she learns to feel the echoes of a book's previous owners just by touching its pages. After the death of the bookstore's owner, Ashlyn inherits the store and becomes proficient at restoring old books.
When a friend donates two bound books to her store, Ashlyn discovers that they are remarkably similar in appearance and do not have a publisher's name or copyright page. She feels compelled to read them and discovers a love affair from the perspective of two writers. Ashlyn becomes obsessed with the books and sets out to discover the identities and fates of the lovers while struggling with her own past. Her whole life changes in the process.
The story is almost impossible to predict. You might think you know what is happening, but the author's wit creates so many plot twists that it most likely will leave you perplexed. It's not just a love story, but also a mystery and celebration of overcoming trauma and abuse.
The audiobook is narrated by three amazing people who come together to tell the story in such a way you might forget it's fiction.
The strong theme of feminism in the upper class during the 1940s is characterized by the portrayal of tensions between traditional gender roles and emerging ideas about women's independence. While many women of the upper class were expected to fulfill domestic roles and support their husbands and fathers, there were also those who sought to challenge these constraints and pursue their own ambitions. Barbara Davis shows how this period was marked by significant cultural and political shifts that both enabled and constrained women's efforts to assert themselves as individuals.
Overall, The Echo of Old Books is a timeless tale of love, courage, and the pursuit of second chances. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (March 28, 2023)
Hardcover: 443 pages