The Librarian by Salley Vickers – Book Review

Title: The Librarian

Author: Salley Vickers

Genre/Themes: Historical Fiction, Drama, 1950s England, Books about Books, Affairs, Romance, Community, Moral Judgments

Blurb from Goodreads

A charmingly subversive novel about a library in 1950s England, by the acclaimed author of The Cleaner of Chartres

Sylvia Blackwell, a young woman in her twenties, moves to East Mole, a quaint market town in middle England, to start a new job as a children’s librarian. But the apparently pleasant town is not all it seems. Sylvia falls in love with an older man – but it’s her connection to his precocious young daughter and her neighbours’ son which will change her life and put them, the library and her job under threat.

How does the library alter the young children’s lives and how do the children fare as a result of the books Sylvia introduces them to?

My Review

I stumbled across this book in my local library’s eCatalogue and was captivated by the blurb. Because hello! Libraries are awesome!! And it’s basically my dream to be a librarian so I thought this was gonna be a fabulous book.

Reader it was not.

It was nothing short of dull, dull, dull.

If only my brain had remembered the author’s name, Salley Vickers, before deciding to pick up this book because this isn’t the first time I’ve read writing by her. Because she was a featured author in a short story collection that was published to celebrate Charlotte Brontë’s centenary year in 2016. And the story she wrote… oof! Did not like it at all! Was one of the weakest stories in what was otherwise a brilliant collection. You can read my review for “Reader I Married Him” here if you would like.

Anyway… back to The Librarian!

It’s set in the 1950s and follows the story of twenty something Sylvia Blackwell who moves to a small English town to become the librarian. And when there she sets about to overhaul the children’s library.

Brilliant right?

This premise just made me think back to my own childhood; okay my childhood wasn’t in 1950s England, it was 1980s/90s Ireland but I was filled with all the warm memories I have of spending countless hours trawling through the stacks in my small town’s library.

So the author, Vickers, had both my interest and my heart from the get go….

But then the story unfolded.

And it felt so … insipid I guess is the best word. It was laden with melodrama, characters that were both irksome and tiresome to read about, and none of the whimsy and emotion that I was expecting.

The writing style was also rather confusing and heavy handed. I felt the plot tended to go off on ridiculous tangents rather than flowed together to create a cohesive storyline… and that ending…


Look I get it. Vickers was trying to tie this fictional library to her own childhood with that ending. However all it did was make the novel feel entirely too twee. And this completely grated against the way Vickers had tried to write the story of main character Sylvia who during the course of the novel had found herself involved with a married man. To me that was one of the more interesting aspects of the novel… I mean it wasn’t executed in a way that felt interesting and compelling to read about, but I really liked the idea of writing about flawed characters in an era that tends to be described as overly moralistic.

I did like the emphasis placed on children’s literature and how Vickers incorporated a variety of meaningful childhood reads into the plot. But in all this was just a big letdown.

I’m just left wondering how can an initially pleasingly distracting book suddenly turn into something clunky that felt like a drudge to read.

A shame.

Other Works by Salley Vickers I’ve Reviewed

My Socials 

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