When planning out The Last Bookshop in London, I set my eye toward making the book a celebration of reading. This meant exploring books that I have known and loved and that have impacted my life in some way. These books have been read at various times in my life, going all the way back to high school and include some of my favorite authors, like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.
Some of these books chosen, however, have stories behind them.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
I’d read this book an age ago, but the idea for making it such an integral piece in The Last Bookshop in London actually came from my dad. We are a family of readers and one night, we were chatting on the phone while I was in the plotting phases and trying to narrow down which books to include. My father said, “You have to include The Count of Monte Cristo. That’s always been one of my favorites!”
And it got me thinking. Because the gift of the first book would be coming from George, it made sense that the book would be less Jane Austen and more action/adventure/treasure hunt. Truly it was the perfect book with a quick pace despite its length, one that can be appreciated by both genders. It’s a tale of loss, of accomplishment and the ultimate revenge, but also a love story 😉
Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford
My bestie is also an author. In 2020, Eliza Knight and I decided to take the plunge together into historical fiction after having both written several dozen romances. We helped one another plot, chatting research and read through each other’s completed manuscripts. It was through these chats with Eliza that I learned about Pigeon Pie.
Eliza’s book, The Mayfair Bookshop, is a story about Nancy Mitford’s life – a socialite author who struggles to find her footing in the publication world. Pigeon Pie was written during the start of WWII when there was absolutely nothing happening in England and the war was dubbed ‘the phoney war’. The piece was meant to be a wartime comedy that was very tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, its release date in May 1940 was just a couple days after the Nazis attacked France (the country just a hop away on the other side of the English Channel). Due to the timing of the release, the book was an utter flop and a devastating blow to Nancy.
For those of you who haven’t read it, I highly recommend The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight – it really peels back the layers of Nancy Mitford and it such a fabulous and fascinating read.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
When The Great Gatsby first came out, it was not well received. There are many reasons for this, but it was certainly not the success Fitzgerald assumed it would be.
In 1942, The Great Gatsby was selected to be one of the many books printed for The Armed Services Editions books. These books were made to be small enough to fit in a jacket pocket for soldiers to read while on deployment. The Great Gatsby was hugely popular among men in the trenches who really connected with the story and their own pursuit of the great American dream. The popularity of the book during WWII helped make it become the popularized novel it is today. Unfortunately F. Scott Fitzgerald died before seeing The Great Gatsby rise to fame, but he always did consider the book to be his masterpiece.
Q. Do you plan on using more book references in your future historical fiction publications?
A: I absolutely do! The Librarian Spy (coming out July 2022) features some of my favorites that include Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and The Secret Garden as well as many more. The book I’m currently working – The Keeper of Hidden Books will also include some classics, including some by popular Polish poets and authors.
If you are interested in seeing all the books mentioned in The Last Bookshop in London, check out my Book Club Reader’s Guide.