Monday, May 30, 2022

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner (Review)

The Bloombury Girls by Nathalie Jenner

Fans of women's fiction who love stories that take place in bookstores, and post-war London will have much to love about this one. 

Book Details:

Title: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner 
Category: Adult Fiction, 368 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction, 20th Century Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release date: May 17, 2022
Content rating: PG 

Book Description:

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming 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 favor 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.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Bloomsbury Girls is a spin-off of the author's first novel The Jane Austen Society since it continues the story of Evie Stone from where she left off in the first book. There are enough references and explanations that I did not have to read the first book to enjoy Bloomsbury Girls. However, fans of the first book will certainly love this one too.

This book starts slowly, building its characters and its momentum like a train. It then picks up speed and comes to a very satisfying end. So many themes run through this book: post-war effects on men and women and their roles in society, friendships, feminism, racism, gender equality, love of literature, books, and bookstores. 

All three women who work at the bookstore, Vivien, Grace, and Evie, have dreams of their own thwarted by circumstance and the very fact that they are women pushing for change after their country has survived WWII. I thought Vivien was confident, self-assured, and stuck; Grace was stoic, wise, and long-suffering, while Evie was brilliant, motivated, and awkward. Together, they discover their strengths and the real possibility of accomplishing their dreams.

I thoroughly enjoyed their stories, their individuality, and their tenacity. Post-war London was a great setting. The bookstore, too, which was almost a character in itself, undergoing change along with the arc of the characters. I couldn't help but root for these women, whose talents were undermined and overlooked simply because they were women.

Fans of women's fiction who love stories that take place in bookstores, and post-war London will have much to love about this one. Well researched and including real historical figures, this novel is entertaining and a testament to the power of female friendships.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach, and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.


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