Books

The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams review: Women in the shadow of war

Pip Williams’s second novel follows a pair of working-class sisters in Oxford at the outbreak of the First World War

The Bookbinder of Jericho cover

Pip Williams’s second novel, The Bookbinder of Jericho, is set in Oxford at the outbreak of the First World War. Working class Peggy and her sister Maude fold pages at the Oxford University Press. Surrounded by the gleaming spires, Peggy aspires to the elite education that has been denied her. 

When war begins and the male bookbinders set off for the Western Front, life changes suddenly and radically – the women left behind must take up the slack on the home front, filling vacant jobs, nursing military invalids and looking after refugees. Peggy remains set, however, on bettering herself and gaining access to the university’s privileged inner sanctums. Williams evocatively conjures a place, time and culture with real literary flair.  

Chris Deerin is a journalist and the director of Reform Scotland

The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams cover

The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams is out now (Chatto & Windus, £18.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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