Saying goodbye to this week with a lovely and heart-warming book!
Title: The 24-Hour Café
Author: Libby Page
Date of publication: 23 January 2020
Number of pages: 368
Welcome to the café that never sleeps.
Day and night, Stella’s Café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door.
Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?
Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café, where one day might just be enough to change your life . . .
12am: I don’t sleep much. I toss and turn and hate losing time trying to get some rest. I have often wondered if I could find a place to breathe, change my mind, and see people. Do such places exist? Well, Libby Page created my perfect little shelter from the rain and life. Stella’s is nestled on Liverpool street, with its lights welcoming everyone and the nice smell of pastries and coffee sending warm even during the coldest nights. The author has given the place a strong identity, letting the reader take in the interior design in a vivid and inviting way. Libby Page’s descriptions conjured not only a visual image of the place, but a picture that requires all the senses. Once in the café, I could taste the food and beverages, smell the yummy calling of food, let my fingers run over the top of a table. It’s a five senses experience, nothing more. And it felt safe. I recently moved to London, and the city can sometimes feel grey, cold, and unfriendly, so I was glad to find this little place on a January night. I felt a little less alone.
12pm: This lonely feeling had a hard time. It fought, it tried to claw its way in forever, but the neon lights were strong. 24 hours, a place, people with a story to tell, and a friendship are at the heart of The 24-Hour Café. Each chapter represents an hour. 60 minutes. 3;600 seconds. How many breaths? How many heartbeats? Every hour has something to offer. We are not served a different slice as the clock ticks. No, the hours go by but there is a thread connecting them all. Faces, feelings, and the good old place. I admire the way the storytelling is not fragmented but enriched by the time passing by. The more hours, the more I was invested in the novel. We meet customers with a story, but we only get to catch a glimpse of it. They come and go, some cliché-ed, like the rush-hour impatient suits in need of a coffee and sandwich fix, some taking you by surprise. They’re only in your life and your reading for a short time, but their imprint stays. I felt they gave me more than they took. Every face I imagined gave me hope. I love observing people. I call it everyday voyeurism. I like to think of what people have in mind, why they are here at the same time I am, what sparks their fire. The café brought me the perfect seat to watch life go by and learn. The sense of belonging gives us the strength to keep going on. This novel is an authentic reminder we all need this at some point.
4pm: Friendships. I often complain about how underrated they are. Friendships keep us afloat when the world is ending. Friendships give us a last pint before going home. Friendships make our heart swell or broke as powerfully as a romance. Hannah is a waitress waiting for her big moment as a singer. Mona is a waitress waiting for her break in the dance world. What started as a part-time job to tide them over between gigs ended up being so much more. It brought the women closer together, it provided them with a place to be, a purpose. Only it was meant to be temporary. For how long are we allowed to chase our dreams? With realism and tact, the author transports her two main characters into memories, into their hopes and fears, until only the essential remains. I could relate to every step both women take during the course of this book. The need to keep going, the doubts, the hopes, the disappointments. It changes you. If you let it.
8pm: At the core of everything lies this friendship that began at a party, a trick of fate to reunite two souls with a lot in common. When I think back of ‘that’ moment, the second you realise someone fits perfectly in your tribe, I can’t help but smile. It doesn’t happen so often. We have colleagues, acquaintances, friends, close friends, and of course, if we’re lucky, best friends. Hannah and Mona’s bond is tested by life, not just for twenty-four hours. Libby Page allows the characters to assess their lives, and more importantly, their friendship, by throwing a bomb. Except the bomb only explodes if it’s fired, right? By pulling at events from the past and the present, Mona and Hannah get the chance to bring a wind of change to their routine. They are at a critical point of their relationship and look back at what happened to drive them there. Again, so many things hit me with force as I recognised signs and situations I have found myself into. Even if The 24-Hour Café is set to be up-lifting, it is first and foremost real, in every way.
This is a novel you savour. Libby Page’s second book is a hug in a book.
You can find the book by clicking on the cover below.
I would like to thank Tracy Fenton and Orion for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for providing me with a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I attended a lovely evening with Libby and Laura Jane Williams on publication day at Waterstones Piccadilly and now have a lovely signed book!
Libby has been a leading campaigner for fairer internships and has spoken on TV and in parliament in support of fair pay for interns. Libby has been writing from an early age and when she was 16 she wrote an illustrated book called Love Pink to raise money for Breast Cancer Care.
After writing, her second passion is outdoor swimming. Libby lives in London where she enjoys finding new swimming spots and pockets of community within the city.