I am delighted to finally be sharing my The 24 Hour Cafe book review with you. This novel by Libby Page is superb and the best I have read for years. If you are someone who loves to people watch and is interested in those big themes like love and loss, this is the book for you to savour next. In fact, I suggest you find a greasy spoon or a tearoom and settle down for a little rest and relaxation whilst reading.
The setting or The 24 Hour Cafe book
Almost all of the action in the book takes place at Stella’s Cafe which as you might have guessed from the title opens 24 hours per day. We get to know the workings on the cafe very well with its team of waiting staff and chefs. Stella is referenced and quite late in the book turns up with a story to tell that will explain why the cafe exists in the first place. The cafe is important to Stella but also to the many customers that find solace and safe haven behind its doors.
The two main characters in The 24 Hour Cafe are the waitresses called Hannah and Mona. We meet them both as they change shifts. The first part of the book has an emphasis on Hannah and then as Mona comes on shift again, we get to know her story in more detail. The two are great friends, colleagues and flat-mates. They share a dream of one day achieving stardom in the performing arts although it seems like time is running out for them on that score. It seems like nothing can rock this duo but of course life is never quite that simple.
You can imagine that over 24 hours in a public place we meet so many customers and other characters. The characterisation in this book is fantastic. I engaged my heart with some more than others. I think you could read this novel at different times in your life and change your favourite characters. For example, as a mum experiencing empty nest syndrome with her son overseas studying, it was hardly a surprise that I would be so concerned for Dan the student missing his mum. Not that long ago, I would have identified with the mum struggling to bond with her baby whilst in the grips of post-natal depression. For you, it might be a couple finding love in older life that you identify with or a gay couple fighting the authorities. All life is here it seems as I have thought so many times when catching a quick coffee when travelling to meetings or using a cafe as a place to get away from my issues for a while.
There are characters in this book from a baby to the aged just like in real life and I loved that. Some are carrying secrets and may not be all they appear to be but isn’t that true of most of us? When we people-watch we may get part of the story right but other bits are probably completely misunderstood. In fact this novel is good for showing us that our stereotyping may not serve us well at all.
I agreed to review this book because it reminds me of a small bar in France that made me very welcome once upon a time with its diverse characters and enigmatic owners. I was told Stella’s was a place of small kindnesses where everyone could be who they wanted to be. The bar I am talking about is very like that and I would love to use it as an inspiration for my own novel one day. It is bad enough when you read a book after seeing the film or vice versa and are disappointed. I took the risk of that happening with my hopes for this novel but my instincts were right. I guess there are special places across the world and amazing people too who just make life richer even in challenging times. Funnily enough, there is quite the French twist in this novel too.
I cannot recommend The 24 Hour Cafe book highly enough. It deals with the sort of issues real people face very day – hopes, dreams, disappointments, struggles, love and loss.
I was relieved when we met our main characters again one year on. In a stroke of brilliance, the author shows that things have progressed for everyone but nobody is quite sorted. So if you never quite seem to be on top of everything jobs, boyfriends or health wise, know that this is perfectly normal!
The only thing I did not like was how much I missed Hannah as she left after her shift. That makes me reflect that some people really are in our lives just for one shift or more. Suddenly I am thinking how Shakespeare talked about us all being players. That in its turn made me think about a recent Russell Brand video I watched where he reminded us how insignificant we really all are in the grand scheme of things. The one thing we can do is to serve and to be kind. In this way we leave memories that will sustain those we leave behind and in the end will be our ultimate legacy.
About the Author
LIBBY PAGE is the author of the SUNDAY TIMES bestseller and runaway success of 2018, THE LIDO. THE LIDO has sold in over twenty territories around the world and film rights have been sold to Catalyst Global Media.
After writing, Libby’s second passion is outdoor swimming. Libby lives in London where she enjoys finding new swimming spots and pockets of community within the city. She and her sister run a blog and Instagram account @theswimmingsisters, documenting their swims and the benefits of outdoor exercise for mental health.