Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner — Book Review
From the desk of Syrie James
I enjoyed Natalie Jenner’s debut novel The Jane Austen Society and was excited to dive into Bloomsbury Girls, the tale of three shop girls working at a male-run century-old bookstore in 1950 London.
Evie Stone (one of my favorite characters from The Jane Austen Society) is a studious girl who, after losing out on a deserved Cambridge fellowship to a man, comes to Bloomsbury Books with a mission: to find and buy back a rare book written by a woman that the bookstore has forgotten about. Grace Perkins, classy, dedicated, and composed on the surface, is trapped in a difficult marriage. Vivien Lowry is a sharp-tongued, brilliant, and trendy woman who is hiding a pain of her own: she lost her upper crust fiancé in the war.
England in 1950 is a man’s world and the men who run Bloomsbury Books, confident in their male privilege, have no idea what is coming at them when these three women band together. The backstage workings of a bookstore are brought vividly to life as Evie, Grace, and Vivien, through friendship and a common goal, become determined to level the playing field and, against impossible odds, take their rightful place in the business world.
I enjoyed the male characters, too, from the fussy Mr. Dutton with his list of rules (each chapter begins with a rule—such fun) to the scientist from India, Ash, who admires Evie. Over the course of the story, we meet some of the literary superstars of the day, including Peggy Guggenheim, Samuel Beckett, and thrillingly, Daphne Du Maurier.
My only quibble is that the novel has so many characters, there wasn’t enough time to devote to each of them. I wanted to be inside Evie, Grace, and Vivien’s heads more often, and to get to know Ash, the bookstore owner Lord Baskin, and Alec, the head of fiction, better. These characters are so intriguing and beautifully drawn that I’d love to see each of them get their own book.
A delight from start to finish, Bloomsbury Girls is a book for book lovers everywhere, a thought-provoking, heartwarming, seamless blend of history and historical fiction about three strong, brave, intelligent women who fight for what is right and won’t let anyone stand in their way. Highly recommended.
- Title: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel
- Author: Natalie Jenner
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (May 17, 2022)
- Length: (368) pages
- Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
- ISBN: 978-1250276698
PURCHASE LINKS available at Natalie’s website.
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.
Did you read Natalie’s debut novel, The Jane Austen Society? Does Bloomsbury Girls intrigue you? I’d love to hear what you think!
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