The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II

by Madeline Martin

Paperback, 2021




Hanover Square Press (2021), Edition: Original, 320 pages


"August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler's forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and drawn curtains that she finds on her arrival are not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she'd wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London. Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed--a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war"--


½ (189 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member murderbydeath
This is what my brain looks like on sleeping meds, and why it's never a good idea to book shop under the influence.

To be fair, this looked like it should have been a good book for me. It's about a bookshop, it's an historical WWII setting, and it's not a romance, though I did pause when I saw that
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it's published by Harlequin. And the story does have its compelling moments; enough of them that I didn't DNF it.

Unfortunately, the writing is not sophisticated and the whole tone of the book could best be summed up as the print version of a Hallmark Movie. That's not me dissing Hallmark Movies - they're just not my personal jam. Too emotional, too sweet, too earnest, too ...too for my overly analytical preferences.

Full credit, however, for the vivid descriptions of the bombing raids on London. They were almost, though not quite, visceral. And I throughly enjoyed most of the bookshop scenes as Grace rehabbed a stuffy, dusty bookshop into a social hub for the neighborhood.
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LibraryThing member DianaTixierHerald
Any book that portrays the importance of stories in peoples lives tends to resonate with me. As we enter the second year of lives disrupted and thrown off track by the pandemic, this tale set in London during WWII parallels the experience of lives disrupted by conditions uncontrollable by the
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characters. Both the pandemic and the war took lives, left people grieving, separated families, created shortages, and closed or curtailed businesses. In 1939 Grace and Viv arrive in London planning to work in shops. Grace's late mother's best friend has offered them a place to live and finds Grace a job in a bedraggled, unorganized, and grungy bookshop owned by an elderly widower who wants no help. This lovely story of a tragic time illuminates London in wartime. The sadness is redeemed by the kindness and sacrifices seen throughout. It made me want to go back and reread Connie Willis's WWII novels. I'm no WWII scholar but the historical facets seemed authentic and the love for books and stories elevated it.
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LibraryThing member SilversReviews
Grace and Viv left their small home town of Dayton and moved to London to get away from an uncle and overbearing parents. They had no idea things would get as bad as they did.

Grace found a job in a fun to arrive in London and to work in a bookshop. Viv worked as a sales clerk at
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The funny thing was that Grace had no love of books, but that was the only job she could find since war was about to break out. She had to deal with the grumpy shop owner, but she made the best of the situation.

A handsome, helpful customer, George, that visited the book shop and smiled at Grace made the shop more bearable. He was also helpful and gave Grace ideas about getting the shop organized after all these years.

Grace brought new life and more business to Primrose Hill Books. Her organization had customers buying more and staying longer. She was a success and knew she would get a wonderful letter of recommendation if she could last for her required six months.

All things weren’t great, though. The children in London were taken from their parents and sent to the country, and George and Colin, their landlady’s son, were sent off to war leaving Grace, Viv, and Mrs. Weatherford alone.

As the women are alone, Grace learns the beauty of books and how they can take you to another place and keep the story with you.

Viv learns that she can’t work at Harrod’s when she knows other women are doing things for their country.

Mrs. Weatherford learns to cope with her son being gone and with helping others while continuing to take care of Grace.

Readers will hear of the London bombings which I didn’t know were so often and so devastating, but for the most part bookworms will not want to miss THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON.

It is a must read because of the bookshop setting, London, and the endearing characters. The characters are just so heartwarming and genuine.

This book would definitely be good for a reluctant reader because Grace shares how she turned from a non-reader to one who can’t stop reading and recommending and turning others into readers and book lovers.

THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON is a lovely, lovely read and a tribute to mankind in times of need.

You will need some tissues and many ways to tell everyone how wonderful this book is. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member eyes.2c
Comfort in a time of trial!

The building of a story around a young woman, Grace Bennett, discovering the joy of books and bookshops. Translating that love into something special during these times. Grace ends up working in a bookstore off from the main drag. Ultimately she finds herself reading to
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assorted people who share her Underground Shelter during the London Blitz. Sometimes they come to the bookstore for continuations, a masterful stroke! Oh and yes there is a gentleman. He really is!
Such a joyous story in the midst of hardship and tragedy.
What is special is the way Grace grows from a shy country girl into her own person

A Harlequin ARC via NetGalley
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LibraryThing member Virginia51
This story made me bawl toward the end of the book. I loved that the story is around a bookstore and there is a little bit of romance. This is a story of joy and heartache and growing up. I love Grace and Mr. Evans and Mrs. Weatherford. Grace helps Mr. Evans and Mrs. Weatherford to handle what
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happens during WWll and they help her. This is a beautiful story. I received a copy of this book from Mira and Harlequin for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
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LibraryThing member JanaRose1
After moving to London, Grace finds a job at the Primrose Hill Bookstore. Determined to set the dusty uninviting space right, Grace discovers her love of books. When German forces begins to bomb London, Grace is determined to carry on and serve the community.

Although this was a good read, the
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characters seemed to lack depth. They seemed a little stereotypical and one dimensional. I did enjoy reading about the bookstore and how Grace began reading during bomb attacks to calm those around her. Overall, 4 out of 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member BarbaraRogers
This is an engrossing, exciting, hold-your-breath read that will suck you right into the story and won’t let you go. I read it in one sitting because I absolutely couldn’t put it down! It had all of the ‘feels’ in it – sorrow, grief, happiness, friendship, love, family (blood & not),
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terror, loss – you name it, you will feel it before you are through with the story. The tale is crafted with descriptions so vivid they put you right in the scene - they break your heart, make you smile, make you tremble with fear, and make you hear the bombs as they drop on London. Martin’s research is always impeccable and that again holds true with this book. I’m thinking if you only read one book this year – this one ought to be it. What a wonderful way to celebrate and honor books and how much they mean to all of us in one way or another. Frankly, I’m writing this review, but I don’t think any review can do it full justice.

Grace Bennett has dreamed of moving to London for a very long time, but feels she has no choice after her bully of an uncle – and his wife – force her to leave the home in which she was raised. Even with the rumblings of war on the horizon, she and her friend Viv are excited about what the future holds for them. Both Grace and Viv desperately want to be a shop-girl at Harrod’s, but only Viv has a letter of recommendation – thanks to Grace’s nasty uncle. Without the reference, Grace cannot be hired at Harrod’s. That actually turns out to be one of the best things to ever happen to her – though she doesn’t realize it at the time.

Grace and Viv are renting a room from the best friend of Grace’s deceased mother. Mrs.Weatherford is a wonderful, wonderful character who lost her husband during the first world war and now the ominous drums are beating again. Mrs. Weatherford is a bright, funny, loving, caring lady who dotes on her only child – a son, Colin. Colin is the gentlest of souls and has long been friends with both Grace and Viv.

Since Grace can’t find employment without a reference, Mrs. Weatherford browbeats the owner of Primrose Hill Books, Mr. Percival Evans, into hiring Grace as his assistant. Grace is a bit disappointed in the dusty, disorganized shop, but she can do it for six months until Mr. Evans will write her a recommendation letter. Grace is accustomed to running her uncle’s much larger business and sets off to clean and organize the bookshop – and maybe even bring in more customers. Grace’s only problem is that she isn’t a reader or book lover – but she is a wonderful organizer and salesperson. Well, she isn’t a reader until a tall, handsome, very quiet man named George actually gives her a book to read. It takes her a while to get started – not until after he’s already deployed – but – the gift he left her changes her whole life.

As the war begins, those Grace loves begin to leave for battle – will they return? Grace doesn’t know, but she does know she has to do her own small part. While her friend Viv joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service – a branch of the British Army), Grace knew she couldn’t go and leave Mrs. Weatherford all alone since Colin had also deployed. So, Grace continued working at the bookshop until she just felt she had to do more and volunteered to be an ARP Warden (Air Raid Precaution).

While WWII is the background of this book, the real story is Grace and how she comes into her own. With her ARP job, Grace probably saw as much sorrow, death, and carnage as those on the front lines. Her job was a dangerous and harrowing one and she grew into the challenge with more courage and bravery than most men would have displayed. During her days, she brought some happiness to those trapped in war-torn London by reading to them and sharing her newly discovered love of books – and in the evenings, she patrolled her sector – along with her partner Stokes – and helped to save London and her people.

This was an exceptional book and I can definitely recommend it. It is such a deep and meaningful read that I just know you’ll love it as much as I did. For me, the only thing that would have made it better would have been for it to be George on that train at the end rather than Viv. I know the author didn’t want to write a romance – but – there is love and caring even in the depths of wars and it would have felt really nice to see that it survived.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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LibraryThing member BettyTaylor56
I loved it, loved it!! Delightful characters. Tight plot. A little romance. But the absolutely best thing about this book is the recognition of how the love of reading can change your life. How you can immediately fall into another world just by opening that book. Ms. Martin wonderfully expressed
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how I have always felt about reading.

"She turned the pages to the first chapter, the sound a quiet whispered shush in the empty store. There was a special scent to paper and ink, indescribable and unknown to anyone but a true reader. She brought the book to her face, closed her eyes and breathed in that wonderful smell."

This book made me realize just how difficult – and dangerous - it was to live in London during World War II. The constant bombing destroyed homes and villages - and so many people died. Day after day, night after night they endured. But at this little bookshop people found a few moments when they could escape into a different world and momentarily set aside the grim reality of their daily lives.

Grace Bennett, the protagonist of the book, has moved to London in 1939 with her best friend Viv. They stay with Grace’s deceased mother’s best friend, Mrs. Weatherford. Grace, who has never been keen on reading, gets a job at a little bookshop. All is going well until the war begins. Amidst the horrors of war, Grace finds not only a love of reading, but also courage, family, and a sense of community. She experiences heartbreak but also finds heartwarming moments.

This book evoked strong emotions within me. I loved the relationship between Grace and Mrs. Weatherford and the relationship between Grace and Mr. Evans (reminded me of “A Man Called Ove”). I rejoiced, I cried. (The tear ducts were flowing with those last two chapters.) I did not want to put this book down. The story was just so beautiful.

I believe this is Ms. Martin’s first venture into historical fiction, but it should certainly not be her last. (She normally writes romance novels.) Well done! Perfect for book clubs.
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
Near the beginning of this book, the heroine confesses that she doesn't really read and I immediately thought: I'm not going to get along with this character. Thankfully, this is a story of discovering reading and how literature can bring people together and help one get through a difficult time.
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Propelled by her new job in a bookshop in the early days of WWII, the heroine discovers the magic of books and soon finds herself providing readings to her London neighbors when they take shelter together from frequent air raids. Overall, this makes for a nice story, although plenty of descriptions of destructive bombings are included. I'd recommend this book to those who enjoy stories about books and fans of WWII historical fiction.
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LibraryThing member Romonko
Nothing is better than a book about bookshops and books, and when it's set during the Blitz in England, it is sheer perfection in Madeline Martin's hands. I knew right away that this book was written by an author who loves books and who understood how important books are to civilization. Grace is a
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young girl who has transplanted herself, along with her friend Vivian from a small rural village to the big streets of London. It's 1939, and war has not yet been declared. Grace finds herself working in a small, dusty bookshop in a non-commercial neighbourhood. She plans to work there for six months. Enough time for her to build a work record and to procure a reference. At first she doesn't know what to think of the taciturn Mr. Evans, but soon the two of them are fast friends. Mr. Evans and a young man called George introduce Grace to the world of books, and she does not look back. Inevitably war is declared and Grace finds herself in the middle of the London Blitz. Grace learns a lot about people and about herself during the war years. She and George have been separated since the beginning of the war. They still correspond with each other, and, despite distance, fall in love. I loved this book so much. It was everything I enjoy in a book - great writing, wonderfully real characters, a plot built around the privations of the London Blitz, and, of course, lots of name dropping of great books such as Middlemarch, The Count of Monte Cristo, Jane Eyre and lots of others which were all books that I have read at one time or another in my life. There is happiness and sadness, hope and despair, courage and determination, all portrayed so well in this book. the characters are warm and alive, and most of all I got to really love Grace and her journey into adulthood and into a life of reading all around the War that is shattering her world.
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LibraryThing member bookchickdi
While there seems to be so many novels set in WWII, Madeleine Martin's The Last Bookshop in London feels like a fresh take on the genre.

Grace and her best friend Viv have left behind their lives in the country for what they hope will be the excitement of living in the big city of London. They move
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into the home of Grace's late mother's friend, Mrs. Weatherford, and her kindhearted son Colin.

Viv is able to get a job at Harrod's glamorous department store, but the only job Grace can get is at Primrose Hill, a local bookstore. Grace is not a reader, and she is taken aback at the disarray and disorganization of the store.

Mr. Evans, the owner of the bookshop, reluctantly takes Grace on as an employee on a temporary basis as a favor to Mrs. Weatherford. Grace gets to work cleaning and organizing the shop, and when handsome George comes in and suggests she read The Count of Monte Crisco to begin her education, Grace is smitten.

When England declares war on Germany after the invasion of Poland, things in London change. Colin and George are off to war, Viv leaves to join the war effort, but Grace stays behind with Mrs. Weatherford. Grace becomes a warden at night, walking the neighborhood to ensure that everyone follows the blackout envelop you as you read.

Soon the Germans begin nightly bombing runs over England, known as the Blitz. Each night the residents of London would take cover in the underground subway tunnels while German planes bombed civilian targets in the city, destroying it piece by piece. Martin immerses the reader in this terrorizing nightly ritual alongside the London residents.

One night, Grace begins to read aloud to her neighbors in the Underground, which becomes a balm to them. She takes to afternoon readings in the bookshop, and people pack the store to hear her.

As someone who works at a bookstore, I truly enjoyed Grace's evolution of the shop. She creates marketing ideas, including participating in the National Book Token system. People were encouraged to buy book tokens that people could take into bookstores to exchange for books, like a gift cards. I had not heard of this, and I loved it.

Madeline Martin does such a brilliant job putting the reader into this neighborhood in London, which was a character in the book, as was the bookshop. We understand the importance of the bookshop as a refuge from war to the community, and how the community comes together when the bookshop needs them.

I highly recommend The Last Bookshop in London for anyone who loves bookstores and a good WWII story told from a fresh perspective.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on Madeline Martin's tour.
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LibraryThing member cfk
Decent story, but had the bones of a great story.
LibraryThing member julieaduncan
This was such a wonderful read. I felt so warmed in reading it. It made me want to make a difference in others' lives and reminded me of all the reasons that books are so important, even when the world seems to be going crazy around you.
LibraryThing member meltonmarty
Simple, predictable story and characters. Gave good insight into life in London during the bombings of WWII, but lacked depth or richness in the style of writing. Characters were pretty stereotypical and plot was predictable.
LibraryThing member Sheila1957
Like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, I have just read the most wonderful book. This is the story of Grace who has lost her home after her mother died. She moves to London with her best friend, Viv, to live in the home of her mother's best friend, Mrs. Weatherford. War is looming and London is not
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what they expected since everything is being prepared for Hitler's invasion. Grace gets a job at a bookshop. It is messy and disorganized, but she organizes it, and it becomes a place to come during the war. Even with the Blitz, Primrose Hill Bookshop is the place to go.

I could not put this down. I loved and identified so much with Grace. Viv is the total opposite of Grace but best friends forever. Mrs. Weatherford and her son, Colin, are great. In her, Grace and Viv have found a mother. Colin is so gentle, not made for the war. Mr. Evans, owner of the bookshop, is full of wisdom but with a gruff exterior. Grace wins him over, and he trusts her with his bookshop and secrets. George Anderson, a customer at first, teaches her about books before going to war as a pilot. So many characters touch Grace's life as she does theirs. Grace becomes an air warden and I learned so much of what they did which is a lot more than telling people to douse their lights. Grace and Mr. Stokes, her partner during her scheduled times as a warden, become friends. There is so much here that I don't want to spoil the story. There are many layers and good feelings I got from this book. I will tell you keep a box of kleenex by your side. You'll never know when you'll need them.

This is definitely on my top 5 list of books I read this year. I cannot encourage you enough to read this. It is wonderful!
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LibraryThing member lbswiener
The Last Bookshop in London is an excellent book. The tone is set from beginning to end. The characters are all believable. The setting is well described. One can feel for the Londoners as they try to keep alive during WWII bombings. The bookshop gives everyone something to look forward to, a place
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to belong. The book received five stars in this review and is highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member dono421846
Libraries in war is a legitimate genre. This contribution should be read with The Paris Library (Janet Charles) or A Bookshop in Berlin (Francoise Frenkel). I didn't really warm to the protagonist in this story; she seemed too ready to cry or blush or swoon. The ease with which she moved from being
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a complete nonreader to fully enamored with the activity (on her first outing she chooses a book with over 1200 pages) was a bit unrealistic as well. Where the novel excels, however, is in its depiction of the London Blitz, with details that have often been overlooked in less careful accounts.
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LibraryThing member snash
A novel set in London during WWII. An entertaining, pleasant read which is full of happy endings despite the destruction of war.
LibraryThing member Carolee888
This book was a treat for me! Love of books, historical fiction and the message of hope during tough times. I am asking Madeline Martin to " Please, please write more historical fiction. Carefully researched and written with a great deal of love, this book is exactly what I need right now.

Set in
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London in August 1939, Grace Bennett and her best friend head from the countryside to inside London. Her uncle refused to give her a letter of recommendation even though she had worked at his store, not because she was a poor worker but to sum it up, he was a mean person. That made getting a job in London very tough but her landlord. Mrs. Weatherford, who I grew to love, made sure that she was hired at the Primrose Hill Bookshop. The owner only agreed to a six month job as a bookclerk for her. And it she had to really talk him into it. The shop was dusty and there were piles of books and even she wasn't a reader, she set about cleaning, and putting the books in order, trying to get a good recommendation. A romance s began between her and one handsome male book browser.

War comes, and many changes happen and Grace becomes an avid reader. Learning that during times of grief and suffering, books give you hope. I listened to this historically detailed book and cried and smiled and loved this book so much. I do hope that you read it.
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LibraryThing member pennykaplan
Grace Bennett leaves her troubled past and looks for a new start in London at the beginning of WWII. She finds it with an old friend of her mothers and a bookshop in London as the Blitz arrives.
LibraryThing member HeatherLINC
I am always a sucker for novels set in and around bookshops and, in my opinion, "The Last Bookshop in London" was one of the better ones I have read. It was a lovely tribute to bookshops and the power of books. All the references to actual books warmed my heart.

I liked Grace as a protagonist and I
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loved her journey with books. She started as a non-reader but gradually became an avid one, and a strong advocate of books, after being gifted "The Count of Monte Carlo". I particularly enjoyed how she shared her love for literature by reading aloud to Londoners trapped in shelters during the Blitz. Her work at Primrose Hill Bookshop was a pleasure to follow.

Through Grace's volunteer work as an Air Raid Precautions warden, I learned more about the terrifying bombings Londoners faced during WWII and the devastation they caused, as well as children's evacuations, the building of bomb shelters, household preparations for possible bombings, air raids, anti-gas ointment, Christmas celebrations, victory gardens and handbags that were designed so women could carry their gas masks with them at all times.

The last chapter was very moving as various people who attended Grace's readings talked about how much it helped them during a dark period. Overall, "The Last Bookshop in London" was a charming read that book lovers will enjoy and appreciate.
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LibraryThing member mapg.genie
This is the story of Grace, a young woman, and her lifelong friend in 1939 who move from their small British community to London hoping to see their city of their dreams and found a city preparing for war. Through the connection of her mother's friend, Grace finds a job in a small, disheveled
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bookstore. Grace is not a reader but is experienced in clerking, cleaning, and organizing a retail store. Through a handsome customer she discovers a love for reading and becomes the salvation for the whole community during the blitz through distractive public book readings.

This story provides a behind-the-scenes view of life in London during the blitz.

I loved this page turner!
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LibraryThing member rmarcin
Sweet story set in London in WWII. Gas masks, air raids, bombings change the way of life for Grace and her best friend, Viv. The girls live in London with Mrs. Weatherford, Grace's deceased mother's dear friend. When Grace doesn't receive a recommendation to be a sales agent at Harrod's from her
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former employer, she relies on Mrs. Weatherford's connections to get her a position at Mr. Evans's Primrose Hill Books. Mr. Evans is initially grumpy, but over time, he and Grace form a wonderful partnership. Grace meets George who ignites a love of books in her. Through the war, Grace begins a series of book readings. Her kindness extends to other booksellers and it is wonderful to read how the community comes together.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

320 p.; 7.99 inches


133528480X / 9781335284808
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