The Lost Bookshop Summary, Characters and Themes

The Lost Bookshop is a novel by Evie Woods, also known as Evie Gaughan. It is a charming and evocative tale that blends mystery, secrets, and a touch of magic.

The story follows three individuals – Opaline, Martha, and Henry – who are all feeling a bit lost in their own lives. When a mysterious vanishing bookshop appears, they are drawn into its spell and discover that their own stories are just as extraordinary as the ones found within the pages of their beloved books. The book brings together two timelines, moving between London in 1921 and Dublin in the present day.


In 1921 London, Opaline Carlisle, a young woman with a passion for literature, escapes an arranged marriage orchestrated by her brother, Lyndon. 

Seeking refuge in Paris, she finds work at a bookstore, encounters renowned authors like James Joyce, and falls in love with Armand, a rare-book dealer. 

However, her brother tracks her down, and she flees to Dublin, where she takes over a quaint bookshop.

Meanwhile, in present-day Dublin, Martha, escaping an abusive marriage, finds solace as a live-in housekeeper for Madame Bowden at 12 Ha’penny Lane. 

Henry, a PhD student from England, arrives in Dublin seeking a mysterious bookshop and a lost Emily Brontë manuscript, rumored to be connected to a letter written by Opaline Gray in the 1920s. 

Henry befriends Martha, and they embark on a quest to unravel the bookshop’s secrets.

As Opaline’s story unfolds in the past, she discovers a hidden notebook containing the first pages of what appears to be the lost Brontë manuscript. 

Armand, driven by greed, urges her to relinquish it, but she refuses. 

Lyndon reappears, institutionalizes Opaline, and secretly sells her newborn baby. After years of confinement, Opaline escapes, returns to her bookshop, and falls in love with Josef Wolffe, a prisoner of war. 

When Josef returns to Austria, Opaline embarks on a tireless search for her lost child.

In the present, Martha, who possesses the uncanny ability to sense people’s pasts and emotions, discovers a mysterious book titled “A Place Called Lost.” 

It appears in her basement apartment, alongside inexplicable tree roots growing through the walls. Henry and Martha’s bond deepens as they share their traumatic pasts, but their burgeoning romance faces obstacles.

The narrative takes a dark turn when Martha’s abusive husband, Shane, tracks her down. In the ensuing struggle, he falls down the stairs and dies. 

Martha attends his funeral, concealing her involvement in his demise. Henry returns, but Martha, fearing further heartbreak, rejects him. 

Nevertheless, they continue their search for the Brontë manuscript, unearthing clues about Opaline’s life and the loss of her child.

In the past, Opaline confronts her brother, revealing his dark secrets and learning the shocking truth about her parentage. 

Lyndon takes his own life, leaving Opaline to continue her quest for her daughter. She pens “A Place Called Lost” as a beacon of hope, hoping her daughter will find it. Josef returns to Dublin, and they reunite.

In the present, Martha and Henry decipher the hidden message in “A Place Called Lost,” revealing the location of the elusive bookshop. 

Martha, having found inner strength and made peace with her past, witnesses the bookshop materialize where the house once stood.

The narrative concludes with Martha and Henry, now married, running the bookshop together. 

The lost Brontë manuscript remains safely hidden, awaiting its own destiny. The story celebrates the power of books to connect people across time and the enduring hope of finding one’s place in the world.

The Lost BookShop Summary


Opaline Carlisle/Gray

Opaline is a strong-willed and independent woman who defies societal expectations in the 1920s. 

She escapes an arranged marriage to pursue her passion for books and literature. Throughout her life, Opaline faces numerous challenges, including loss, betrayal, and institutionalization. 

Despite these hardships, she remains resilient and resourceful, ultimately finding love and creating a legacy through her bookshop.

Martha Bowden

Martha is a kind and empathetic woman living in contemporary Dublin. She has a unique gift of being able to read people’s pasts and emotions. 

Martha is also a survivor of domestic abuse, and her journey is one of healing and self-discovery. Through her connection to Opaline’s story, Martha finds her own voice and purpose.

Henry Littleton

Henry is a PhD student from England who is searching for a lost manuscript. He is drawn to the mystery surrounding the vanishing bookshop and forms a close bond with Martha. 

Henry’s character is characterized by his intelligence, compassion, and determination to uncover the truth.

Armand Gauthier

Armand is a charismatic and enigmatic rare-book dealer who becomes Opaline’s lover. He is passionate about books and possesses a deep knowledge of the literary world. 

However, Armand’s ambition and desire for control ultimately lead to conflict and heartbreak in his relationship with Opaline.

Lyndon Carlisle

Lyndon is Opaline’s controlling and manipulative brother. 

He embodies the patriarchal attitudes of the time and seeks to maintain control over his sister’s life. 

Lyndon’s actions have devastating consequences for Opaline, driving the plot’s central conflict.

Madame Bowden

Madame Bowden is an eccentric elderly woman who employs Martha as a housekeeper. 

She is a mysterious figure with a hidden past, and her presence adds an element of intrigue to the story. 

Madame Bowden ultimately plays a crucial role in helping Martha escape her abusive husband.

Sylvia Beach

Sylvia is the owner of Shakespeare and Company, a famous bookstore in Paris. 

She becomes a mentor and friend to Opaline, offering her guidance and support. 

Sylvia embodies a love of literature and a spirit of rebellion against societal norms.

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Matthew is the son of the Dublin antiques dealer who hires Opaline. He is kind and supportive, and he develops a deep affection for Opaline. 

Matthew’s character represents a source of stability and love in Opaline’s turbulent life.

Josef Wolffe

Josef is a prisoner of war who finds solace in Opaline’s bookshop during World War II. He is a gentle and intelligent man who forms a connection with Opaline through their shared love of literature. 

Josef’s character represents hope and resilience in the face of adversity.


The Power of Books and Storytelling

The Lost Bookshop celebrates the transformative power of books and storytelling. Throughout the novel, books are portrayed as portals to other worlds, offering escape, solace, and inspiration

Opaline finds purpose and meaning through her bookstore, while Martha’s connection to stories is so deep that she literally embodies them through her tattoos. Books act as a bridge between the past and present, connecting Opaline and Martha across generations. 

The discovery of Emily Brontë’s lost manuscript highlights the enduring legacy of literature and its ability to spark curiosity and wonder. 

The novel itself is a testament to the power of storytelling, bringing together multiple timelines and characters to create a rich tapestry of human experiences.

The Resilience of the Human Spirit

The Lost Bookshop explores the remarkable resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Opaline endures betrayal, loss, and institutionalization, yet she never loses hope of finding her daughter or reclaiming her life. 

Martha escapes an abusive marriage and finds the strength to rebuild her life and embrace her unique gifts. Henry confronts his painful past and learns to open himself up to love and forgiveness. 

The characters’ journeys demonstrate the ability to overcome trauma, heal from wounds, and find new beginnings. 

The novel ultimately offers a message of hope and redemption, affirming that even in the darkest of times, the human spirit can find a way to thrive.

The Importance of Found Family

The Lost Bookshop emphasizes the significance of found family, the bonds we create with those who choose to love and support us, even if they aren’t related by blood. 

Opaline finds solace and belonging with Sylvia, Armand, and Matthew, who become her surrogate family in Paris and Dublin. 

Martha forms a deep connection with Madame Bowden, who offers her protection and guidance. Henry finds acceptance and understanding with Martha, despite their initial differences.

These relationships demonstrate that family is not defined by blood ties but by shared experiences, mutual respect, and unconditional love. 

The novel suggests that found families can be just as, if not more, meaningful and supportive than biological ones.

The Enduring Search for Identity and Belonging

The Lost Bookshop delves into the universal quest for identity and belonging. Opaline’s journey of self-discovery takes her across continents and through various roles, from runaway bride to bookstore owner. 

Martha grapples with her unique abilities and the secrets of her past, seeking to understand her place in the world. Henry’s search for the lost manuscript mirrors his own quest for meaning and purpose in life. 

Each character’s path is marked by a yearning for connection and a desire to find their true selves. 

The novel suggests that the search for identity is an ongoing process, shaped by experiences, relationships, and the stories we tell ourselves and others.