Book Review

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

Welcome to the café that never sleeps.

Day and night, Stella’s Café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?

Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café, where one day might just be enough to change your life…

What a gorgeous novel this is!  I adored Libby Page’s debut, The Lido, and yet felt a sense of trepidation at purchasing her follow up, the usual concerns of whether it would live up to my expectations making themselves known.  I needn’t have worried – The 24-Hour Café has all the heart of The Lido and is every bit as brilliant.   

From the start they understand each other completely

The 24-Hour Café is a novel that explores female friendship and the ups and downs that that might entail.  Hannah and Mona are both waitresses at Stella’s – a 24-hour café near Liverpool Street station – as well as being best friends and housemates.  The novel begins at midnight as Hannah starts her shift, and over the course of the next twelve hours we learn more about Hannah’s life.  Her ambition is to be a singer, and yet the opportunities are few and far between, with even the small number of jobs she was able to pick up slowly drying up.  We also learn of her somewhat troubled romantic relationships as well as her friendship with Mona – how they met and the way they found an instant connection.  It’s not all rosy, and there are hints of some underlying tension between these two ladies, leaving the reader to wonder what the impact will be.

I love the structure of the novel, which gives the narrative entirely to Hannah for the first half, before switching to Mona at noon as she begins her own 12-hour shift at the café.  From this point on, we get Mona’s version of events to balance out what Hannah has told us so far.  While best friends, that underlying tension that was highlighted in Hannah’s narrative – I won’t spoil it for you – raises its head as the two cross paths at midday, leaving them at odds.  And it’s such a shame, as the two are clearly very close – something that comes across as they both consider their friendship and everything they’ve been through together.  That said, I did find myself most sympathetic towards Mona.  It seemed to me that Hannah had – perhaps unintentionally – treated her unfairly at times in their friendship, taking her for granted and leaving Mona feeling hurt and confused.  That said, I still wanted them to resolve matters between them – theirs sounds like such a wonderful friendship and it would be a shame to let anything spoil it. 

While observing Hannah and Mona and their thoughts, the reader is also introduced to patrons of the café and is given a glimpse into their lives.  The novel gives wonderful insight into these people who are unconnected, with the exception of Stella’s, and who come from a wide variety of backgrounds.  It highlights how little we know about the lives of those we come into contact with.  Page does this so well, showing the problems that many face and yet keep hidden, as well as how small acts of kindness can go such a long way to brighten a person’s day.  The novel finishes one year after the day that is the focus for the novel, and I love that we’re able to see the outcome for those whose lives we peeked at during the novel.  For those who like to “people watch”, this is the perfect novel, as Hannah and Mona observe the comings and goings of their customers, trying to intrude as little as possible.

The 24-Hour Café is a beautiful, heart-warming novel about the importance of friendship.  Well-written, it’s full of characters that will make you care about their ordeals and one that will have you hoping for a positive outcome for those involved.  Recommended.


    1. 😀 Not my usual kind of read, but I loved Libby’s debut, and just had to read this, and it more than lived up to expectations

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