Book Review: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

About the Book:

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heart-warming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans.

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favour of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

~~~

A MESSAGE FROM AUTHOR NATALIE JENNER

Dear readers,

I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who left school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and calibre. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.

Warmest regards, Natalie.

~~~

Published by St. Martin’s Press

Released 17th May 2022

My Thoughts:

There’s nothing nicer than reading a beautiful book that pays homage to literature, and when it does so with such empathy and style, then it’s even more special. I loved this novel, just as I loved this author’s first one, The Jane Austen Society. In Bloomsbury Girls, we see a couple of familiar characters from the first novel pop up, in particular Evie Stone, who is a main character in both, but be assured that the two novels are merely connected loosely and by no means a part of any series.

This is a novel for book lovers who enjoy wandering through bookstores and readers of classic literature, or at least, readers who are familiar with classic literature. I wholly enjoyed the focus on women writers (a particular area of interest of mine as regular readers here will know) and I loved the literary connections that were forged throughout the novel. The concept of a bookstore being owned and run by women, promoting women’s writing, and publishing the works of forgotten women writers is one I wish I could visit. Everything about this novel was a delight: the setting, the characters, and the story. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

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