Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Review: The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The Personal Librarian
by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle's complexion isn't dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white--her complexion is dark because she is African American.

Kritters Thoughts:  Belle da Costa Greene is many things, a librarian, a daughter, and a colored woman.  With a father who is the first black man to graduate from Harvard, but a mother who has a different heritage that has given her and her siblings a lighter skin tone, they decided to start passing as white to allow for more opportunities that could come their way at this moment in time.  Belle is hired to be JP Morgan's librarian for his current personal collection and to build it to be the premier collection.  

I loved reading Belle's story and even more so when I did a quick google search and realized that she is a fully historically accurate human.  To wonder throughout the book where fact and fiction met was so fun and I appreciated how her story was written so we saw both her intense work life and equally intense home life.  The level of anxiety that Belle dealt with each day with her large secret was shared so well and I could only imagine when anyone lives with a secret that they feel they need to hide how much that affects your everyday life.  

Being a book nerd who has always wondered about the world of libraries both personal and public, seeing Belle acquire art and books was the most fun.  I have often wondered if I should have made a career change as book management has always seemed fun, but have decided that it is a fun hobby, but maybe not the career for me!  I loved reading how Belle was entering a man's world and using her strengths to get what she wanted done and interesting to think that now it is known as a feminine career and I would love to read a book about the history of the profession of librarian.   

Marie Benedict has quickly become one of my all time favorite historical fiction authors who focuses on women that are true in history, but maybe didn't make it to the history books and shines a light on their stories as a part of the story that we should all know.  

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Ebook 2021 Challenge: 77 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Berkley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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