The Paris Library meets The Flight Girls in this captivating historical novel about the sacrifice and courage necessary to live a life of honor, inspired by the first female volunteer librarians during World War I and the first women accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy.
Two women. One secret. A truth worth fighting for.
1918. Timid and shy Emmaline Balakin lives more in books than her own life. That is, until an envelope crosses her desk at the Dead Letter Office bearing a name from her past, and Emmaline decides to finally embark on an adventure of her own—as a volunteer librarian on the frontlines in France. But when a romance blooms as she secretly participates in a book club for censored books, Emmaline will need to find more courage within herself than she ever thought possible in order to survive.
1976. Kathleen Carre is eager to prove to herself and to her nana that she deserves her acceptance into the first coed class at the United States Naval Academy. But not everyone wants female midshipmen at the Academy, and after tragedy strikes close to home, Kathleen becomes a target. To protect herself, Kathleen must learn to trust others even as she discovers a secret that could be her undoing.
In the exciting latest from Armstrong (The Light of Luna Park), two young women decades apart struggle to find their place in the old boys' club culture of the military. Kathleen Carre realizes her lifelong dream when she becomes one of the first women to accepted into the Naval Academy in 1976, but her grandmother Nellie, who raised Kathleen and served in the Motor Corps during WWI, expresses skepticism that a military career will lead to happiness. Kathleen enrolls anyway and meets with hostility from her mostly male peers. Soon after training begins, Nellie dies of cancer, a diagnosis she had hidden from Kathleen, leaving Kathleen to piece together the mysteries of her grandmother's past. Meanwhile, in 1918, Emmaline Balakin travels from Washington, D.C., to Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, France, to work as the librarian at a U.S. Army base. She's told "war is no place for women," but sticks around in hopes of reuniting with her childhood crush who's stationed in France, along the way finding a kindred spirit in Nellie. However, Emmaline's interest in banned books gets her into trouble and compels her to make a difficult decision with long-lasting consequences. The dual story lines masterfully reflect how nominal moves toward institutional inclusion can belie the persistence of cultures of exclusion. Historical fans will devour this intimate story about fighting for dignity and respect during trying times.