The Bookbinder [Book Review] #NetGalley @RandomHouse #HistoricalFiction #BookAboutBooks #booktwitter #bookworm

In The Bookbinder, Peggy cares for her twin sister, works long hours as a bookbinder, is a book and words lover, and dreams of academics.

The Bookbinder by Pip Williams

The Bookbinder by Pip Williams (cover) Image: a graphic of a stack of books with the top one open and a rose lying in the center

Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical fiction, book about books, Oxford (England), WWI

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Thanks #NetGalley @RandomHouse / Ballentine for a complimentary e ARC of #TheBookbinder upon my request. All opinions are my own.

Twin sisters, Peggy and Maude, work at the bookbindery in Oxford (England). Peggy is ambitious and intelligent and has to be reminded that her job is to bind books and not read them. She envies the women across the street at Sommerville College. Peggy also watches over her sister Maude who is neurodiverse, gifted in unique ways, and enjoys the repetition of the binding process. WWI interrupts their lives and Peggy volunteers at a hospital for injured refugees from Belgium. As she nurses a certain Belgian soldier, her academic goals become more complicated.

My Thoughts:


It’s interesting to gain a glimpse into the labor-intensive and exacting work of bookbinding in the early 1900s. The author gives us detailed and vivid descriptions of the process., the bindery, the people, and the time period.

She’d Rather Be Reading

Can you imagine working with books and words all day, every day and not be able to read them if you’re a book lover? As she folds and gathers, Peggy picks out individual vocabulary words to memorize and learn. She also reads one sentence at a time as she folds and gathers certain sections. If she’s lucky, a book or a portion of it may be damaged in the process and then she sneaks them home. Her small houseboat is packed wall-to-wall with stacks and stacks of printed material.

Ambition and Academics

Peggy is an ambitious and driven person and she wants to attend college more than anything. Although she was born into the working class and doesn’t have the academic background or connections required, she persists in her dream of college. Through innovative, supportive, helpful, and encouraging friends, she finally gets a chance. It will require a tremendous amount of work, persistence, and sacrifice to pass the entrance exams. We cheer for Peggy throughout the story as she chases her dream. We believe in her right to education, and anyone that has taken a difficult entrance exam will relate!

Thoughtful Themes

This compelling story is multilayered and rich in themes that includes topics such as WWI, Belgian refugees, war injuries, the Spanish Flu, loss and grief, friendship, sister bonds, classism, access to education, sacrifice, following a dream, ambition, neurodiversity, and a side of romance.

Content Consideration: war injuries, illness, loss, and grief

Recommending The Bookbinder

I recommend The Bookbinder for fans of books about books and historical fiction (WWI), for readers who appreciate stories of inspirational and ambitious women, and for book clubs. Those who have read The Dictionary of Lost Words might enjoy this new release by Pip Williams set in the same world.

Related: Other books I’ve reviewed about girls pursuing an education include The Girl With the Louding Voice and Amal Unbound (MG).

My Rating:  4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Meet the Author of The Bookbinder, Pip Williams

Author of The Bookbinder, Pip Williams

Pip Williams was born in London, grew up in Sydney, and now lives in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia with her family and an assortment of animals. She has spent most of her working life as a social researcher, studying what keeps us well and what helps us thrive, and she is the author of One Italian Summer, a memoir of her family’s travels in search of the good life, which was published in Australia to wide acclaim. Based on her original research in the Oxford English Dictionary archives, The Dictionary of Lost Words is her first novel.


Is this this new release on your TBR or have you read it?

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***Blog posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

I purchase or borrow from the library all books I review unless explicitly stated that the book is free (arc).

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  1. I really enjoyed this one, possibly more than the Dictionary of Lost Words. It’s another example of different titles in the UK/US which I always find slightly confusing.

  2. I haven’t seen this book around at all, Carol, but it sure sounds interesting. I like books about books, women following their dreams and neuro-diverse characters. Great review, you have hooked me for sure.

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