The Telephone Box Library by Rachael Lucas
History is everywhere, and in this novel history teaching gives way to local history which in turn affects personal history. Lucy is taking a break in a beautiful village which happens to be next to Bletchley Park, and is keen to explore the history, but living in a picture perfect village demands more involvement than she expected. This is a novel of village life, a community which is welcoming to a stranger and expecting much of her. It is also the story of a resilient older woman, whose demeanour is frosty to begin with, as Bunty is reluctant to accept help. Sam is a neighbour, a single parent to a changeable teenager, and a treehouse designer and builder. Mel is a dog trainer who connects with Lucy and her dog Hamish quickly; for the first time Lucy begins to make friends. She is only going to be a temporary resident whatever happens, and she really wants to know about the enigmatic Bunty’s own history. This is a good read about community and the impact of history when it affects how people see life. This is a well written book which shows real empathy for the inhabitants of an English village, some romance and the conviction that “If you only have one chance to live life, you should choose to be happy”.
The book opens with a picture of Lucy as head of the history department of a busy secondary school. She enjoys the teaching of teenagers, but the relentless paperwork and organisation is taking its toll as she collapses with stress related high blood pressure. As a result she decides to take six months off, and sees an advert for a helper for an older lady in a village. After the stresses of life in Brighton she expects to find a complete rest but soon discovers that there is plenty going on in even the quietest looking countryside. Bunty is reluctant to accept help, and she has an off putting companion called Stanley. Lucy discovers that Bunty had a connection with nearby Bletchley Park during the Second World War, and she is determined to find out more. Bunty, however, has big secrets to hide concerning her experiences in the war, and always claims that the Official Secrets Act means that she cannot talk about her service in the war. There is, however, an old hut that seems to hold secrets that Bunty wants to visit, and hints begin to emerge.
This is a lovely novel of life in a village where there are some real characters and lots going on. The proposal to keep and transform the old telephone box unites generations, as it symbolises both past memories and the hopes of a future with education. There are other themes running through the book, of dogs, the issues surrounding being a single parent and the elements of life in a village. This is an easy to read book of life and love, full of realistic dialogue and fascinating characters. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys light contemporary fiction with a hint of romance.
This was one of the books I picked up in a supermarket on a pre lock down visit. I must admit I am missing going into shops and making discoveries of books – ordering books online or even from a friendly book shop is not the same. Still, the important thing is that I do still have lots of books left to read, and I can still read reviews!