Monthly Archives: June 2022
About the Book
When Libby Nicholls arrives in London, broken-hearted and with her life in tatters, the first person she meets on the bus is elderly pensioner Frank. He tells her about the time in 1962 he met a girl on the number 88 bus with beautiful red hair just like her own. They made plans for a date at the National Gallery, but Frank lost the ticket with her number written on it. For the past sixty years, he’s ridden the same bus trying to find her.
Libby is inspired by the story and, with the help of an unlikely companion, she makes it her mission to help Frank’s search. As she begins to open her guarded heart to strangers and new connections, Libby’s tightly controlled world expands. But with Frank’s dementia progressing quickly, their chance of finding the girl on the number 88 bus is slipping away.
More than anything, Libby wants Frank to see his lost love one more time. But their quest also shows Libby just how important it is to embrace her own chances for happiness – before it’s too late.
A beautifully uplifting novel about how one chance meeting can change the course of your life
About the Author
Freya Sampson works in TV and was the creator and executive producer of Channel 4’s Four in a Bed and Gogglesprogs. She studied History at Cambridge University and is a graduate of the Faber Academy. She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat. The Last Library was her debut novel.
What I Thought
Well, this was just a big hug in a book, and one that actually had me guessing at what would happen – mostly incorrectly but I liked the mystery of it.
Our main character Libby, when we first meet her, is ‘on an enforced break’ from a long term relationship. She moves to London to live temporarily with her sister Rebecca – the two seem to have a slightly fractious relationship and that’s not exactly helped when she is treated as a replacement to their live in nanny.
Libby’s first meeting in London is with pensioner Frank who, on spying her red hair, sees in her the image of his ‘one that got away’ – the eponymous Girl on the 88 bus. What leads from this chance encounter is a fabulous story of intergenerational friendship, love, loss and hope. Hope that it isn’t too late for second or third chances to follow your dreams.
Frank is a delight, and although we see his sadly inevitable decline it is handled in a very respectful way and not over-sensationalised. His diagnosis does also give the novel a sense of urgency.
Although Libby’s helping him is a way for her to shift concentration away from her own life and challenges, her humanity and kindness shine through because she maintains the contact throughout and beyond the resolution of their hunt.
Frank encourages Libby to pursue her passion for art, but her attempt at drawing someone on the bus lands her in trouble with a punk – or does it? I guess it depends how you define trouble.
The ‘all is lost’ section gets flipped on its head somewhat at the close but provides the dramatic tension and pause to move the plot forward. All in all this is a beautifully crafted plot.
The ending was bittersweet but with enough hopefulness to make it satisfying. So much so that I’m off to download Freya’s debut now – The Last Chance Library.
Trigger warnings: Advancing Dementia, off the page mentions of physical abuse/violence, brief discussions re infertility
Thanks to Tracy at compulsive Readers and the publisher for a gifted ARC copy for the purposes of this honest review. Do see what everyone else on the tour thought.