Booky Babe First Look: Brianna Labuskes' Debut Historical Fiction Novel "Librarian of Burned Books"
Title: Librarian of Burned Books
Author: Brianna Labuskes
Release Date: February 21st, 2023
Hi friends. I'm back with a hot take on the latest books I've read. I spotted this one on NetGalley and jumped at the opportunity to read it because I absolutely loved Brianna's writing style in the last novel of hers that I read called: See it End. I did a review on that book earlier last year and I'll link it HERE so you can read it. NetGalley accepted my request in exchange for an honest review. I don't have a ton of experience with historical fiction, but the ones I've read I have enjoyed. Let's dive into this reading experience.
Berlin 1933. Following the success of her debut novel, American writer Althea James receives an invitation from Joseph Goebbels himself to participate in a culture exchange program in Germany. For a girl from a small town in Maine, 1933 Berlin seems to be sparklingly cosmopolitan, blossoming in the midst of a great change with the charismatic new chancellor at the helm. Then Althea meets a beautiful woman who promises to show her the real Berlin, and soon she’s drawn into a group of resisters who make her question everything she knows about her hosts—and herself.
Paris 1936. She may have escaped Berlin for Paris, but Hannah Brecht discovers the City of Light is no refuge from the anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathizers she thought she left behind. Heartbroken and tormented by the role she played in the betrayal that destroyed her family; Hannah throws herself into her work at the German Library of Burned Books. Through the quiet power of books, she believes she can help counter the tide of fascism she sees rising across Europe and atone for her mistakes. But when a dear friend decides actions will speak louder than words, Hannah must decide what stories she is willing to live—or die—for.
New York 1944. Since her husband Edward was killed fighting the Nazis, Vivian Childs has been waging her own war: preventing a powerful senator’s attempts to censor the Armed Service Editions, portable paperbacks that are shipped by the millions to soldiers overseas. Viv knows just how much they mean to the men through the letters she receives—including the last one she got from Edward. She also knows the only way to win this battle is to counter the senator’s propaganda with a story of her own—at the heart of which lies the reclusive and mysterious woman tending the American Library of Nazi-Banned Books in Brooklyn.
As Viv unknowingly brings her censorship fight crashing into the secrets of the recent past, the fates of these three women will converge, changing all of them forever.
Inspired by the true story of the Council of Books in Wartime—the WWII organization founded by booksellers, publishers, librarians, and authors to use books as “weapons in the war of ideas”—The Librarian of Burned Books is an unforgettable historical novel, a haunting love story, and a testament to the beauty, power, and goodness of the written word.
Hefty synopsis, right? Whew! My thoughts exactly. First, before I even get into the story, I just want to mention that Brianna Labuskes' ability to bring you into the atmosphere of the story she is telling is a skill that not many writers possess, unfortunately. Reading her work is always some sort of immersive experience. This is my second book by her, but I will definitely be reading more. Whatever you write from here on out, consider me a fan. See it End had me feeling like I was in the story trying to solve the mystery in real time. The Librarian of Burned Books was no different. I felt like I was in Berlin and Paris and then New York. Wherever the story ended up, I was there with it desperate for more information. Soaking in the words as if my life depended on it.
I don't remember if I've mentioned this anywhere in this review yet, as I've written it over the past few days but I'm not the biggest Historical Fiction fan. I could maybe count on one hand the number of historical fiction novels I have read in the past year. This book, however, just might have converted me. I had trouble putting it down in order to complete my daily responsibilities. My only wish was that I'd had this in audiobook form so I could listen while I was doing other things.
"Every culture, every country, every type of person in the world tells stories. They've been whispered and sung and written down on scraps of paper and they have always, aways been an indelible part of our very humanity." - The Librarian of Burned Books
I don't want to give anything away or spoil the ending, but I do want to encourage people to read this story. Even with the fictional elements, it reminds us just how important books are. During such a bleak and terrible time, books were all some people had to cling to.
1. The Librarian of Burned Books told the story from multiple perspectives that all melded together in the end. For a moment I was confused as to how they all related, being that they all took place a few years apart, but as I continued to read, I realized how closely related each story was to the other.
2. The LGBTQ angle was an interesting route to take for this story, but it was expertly done. I enjoyed watching Althea learn and explore sides of herself that she was too afraid to acknowledge before. Self-discovery. We love that for you, Althea!
3. The incorporation of some of the classic literature into the storyline was one of my favorite things about this story. Mentions of Alice in Wonderland and The Great Gatsby made me warm and fuzzy inside, can't really articulate why. Maybe it's just the nod to the stories that we've all grown up with that gave me a boost of nostalgia.
4. Love was woven into the inner framework of the plot, but it was not the main focus. However, I still found myself rooting for these complex characters to get their happy endings; whatever that may mean for them.
"I can tell you that banning books, burning books, blocking books is often used as a way to erase a people, a belief system, a culture."
This book was filled with so many noteworthy quotes. I am in awe at Brianna's skill and writing style. If you're a fan of historical fiction, and even if you're not, add this book to your TBR immediately. I guarantee you'll enjoy the story as much as I did.
There you have it, friends! The book releases today, so if you decide to check it out, please let me know what you thought of it. I can't wait to hear from you!
Happy Reading Friends! ❤