national Arts Festival Banner

Thursday, January 25, 2024



If you are a fan of historical fiction, then this book is one for you. An interesting and engrossing read. To be recommended (Review by Christine E. Hann)

The Bookbinder of Jericho reads as a follow up to the Dictionary of Lost Words, the author’s debut novel. The book is written in a style that draws you into the lives of the women of Jericho, one of the poorer parts of Oxford, England, during World War I.

We are introduced to twin sisters, Peggy, and Maude, who work for the bookbindery at the Oxford University Press. The sisters are very different to each other, Peggy is quick and clever, and loves to read. Treasuring the pages of work that come through her hands. Spoilt pages and even books are saved and taken home to become part of her library on the barge the sisters live on, as did their late mother. 

Maude is special, gentle, with wonderful hands, who needs to be guided, watched over and cared for as she goes through life. Peggy is her guardian, and her comfort in a fast-changing world. As Peggy grows in knowledge, she grows to feel the limitations of the world she lives in, and the limits her sister places on her.

The impact of the War on the twins, and their fellow workers and friends is immense. As the men go to war, the women need to take on their roles, venturing into the new opportunities, learning that so much can be possible and available to them.

Peggy follows the path of opportunity but learns on the way that there are difficult choices in life, with setbacks that must be faced and dealt with, especially in the male dominated era of the times.

I personally found the details of how the books were put together, bound and made whole fascinating, as were the texts and tracts that the author sets in place for the bookbinders to work on, and the reader to discover further.

The story is an uplifting one, even though it is set in times of hardship and war. The realities of which are evident in several of the characters who are important to Peggy and Maude and their stories. The reader encounters the hardships, terrible injuries, traumatised refugees and more, woven into a story that is very real to the time it is set in.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, then this book is one for you. An interesting and engrossing read. To be recommended.

Pip Williams was born in London, grew up in Sydney and now lives in the Adelaide Hills in the South of Australia with her family. Her debut novel, The Dictionary of Lost Words was a New York Times best seller which has been adapted for Stage and is set to become a TV series as well. She has also co-authored several children’s books.  Titles by the same author: The Dictionary of Lost Words, One Italian Summer. - Christine E. Hann


The Bookbinder of Jericho is published by Penguin Random House UK – 2023:  ISBN: 978-1-784-74519-6