The 24 – Hour Cafe by Libby Page
Publishing Date: 23rd January 2020
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 416
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
| Paperback (out on 18.02.2021)
Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night Stella’s Café opens its doors for the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It is many things to many people but most of all it is a place where life can wait at the door. A place of small kindnesses. A place where anyone can be whoever they want, where everyone is always welcome.
Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They work at Stella’s but they dream of more, of leaving the café behind and making their own way in life.
Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café; a day when Hannah and Mona’s friendship will be tested, when the community will come together and when lives will be changed…
The 24 – Hour Cafe in question is called Stella’s and is based opposite Liverpool Street Station in London. It serves fish and chips, and American pancakes, and coffee of course, to all that need it, at any time of the day. Or night.
Hannah and Mona are friends who share a flat and who both work at Stella’s. Hannah is a wannabe singer and Mona is a dancer, chasing their dreams of becoming famous and in the meantime sharing their shifts to help pay the bills.
There are also various characters who enter and leave the cafe over the period of a 24 hour shift, and each chapter is dedicated to one hour, covering Hannah’s midnight until noon and Mona’s noon until midnight. Even if not many realise that, the cafe is a place that brings those people safety, warmth and kindness of strangers.
I adored Libby Page’s debut novel “The Lido” and was hoping for another heart – warming and uplifting read from her. And while it was like this, the new release didn’t sit with me so well, it was a very different read, which per se is not bad at all, but I had a feeling there is no plan behind the story.
I couldn’t immediately get into the plot, to be honest, and I had problems with it till the end actually. The pace was rather slow and I longed for something to happen, for something that will blow me away. Also, and yes, I know, it’s like in a real life, but mostly the characters were simply so sad, and this feeling of sadness started to overpower me wholly. Hannah was for a long time so down, instantly unhappy and complaining, and yes, she was trying to come to terms with a broken relationship, actually much more than that, but it was too much for me personally. It really takes time to get into Hannah and her head, and even then it seems as if there was nothing positive about and around her. Not the easiest character, to be honest, yes, deep and complex but because for this whole negativity not one you could immediately warm to. She was even complaining about the brilliant friendship with Mona, who was like a sister for her. Moreover, what also didn’t sit with me so well was the fact that Hannah, dreaming of going big, seemed to stop at dreaming and she was doing nothing to fulfil this dream.
Mona was the opposite to Hannah and truly, she felt like a breath of fresh air compared to her, and was for sure easier to like. I’m not sure, maybe it’s only my feeling, but Mona looks to be better written than Hannah, there is more life in her and all her emotions and fears were a part of me as well.
There were probably too many characters in this book to let their voices come through, though, and they left me with some questions open. I appreciate how well they were written, sure, however if I already have them in the story, appearing on the pages over and over again, please do let me know them completely. It felt as if I was given a chance to meet and greet them and befriend them a little and then the chance was taken away from me. There were so many of them, including all the more or less random customers, and I simply couldn’t seize all of them and their stories. I don’t know, the idea was brilliant, but maybe all that the book has needed were really the two main characters, their stories and a few background characters significant to the main ones? Maybe then it would be easier and not so confusing?
However, I really liked the author’s insight into the characters’ lives, and I liked the idea of the cafe and people relying on it so much – who would have thought it, right, that a simple 24 – Hour Cafe may be so important for human lives? It made me see that, no matter who you are in what situation you find yourself at the moment, there is nothing better than a friendly face, a hot drink and maybe an open ear that is not necessarily your closest one – sometimes it’s easier to open up to a stranger.
Libby Page’s writing style is extremely elegant, peaceful and warm, almost lyrical, and for sure she has a way with words, writing about feelings and emotions that I had no idea exist. Her writing is evocative and vivid and she has a great talent to bring her characters to life.
So I am a bit in two minds about this book. It was not a bad read, absolutely not, but it also didn’t work for me as much as I hoped, with too many parts that I simply found not so appealing. However, I absolutely adored the writing style and the idea for this story was exceptionally brilliant. It was a book about kindness, friendship, understanding and following your dreams, about community spirit, belonging and supporting each other in any situation.
and Libby Pages proves again that she’s a lovely storyteller, full of patience, gentleness and understanding – I am curious what she has in store for us next.
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