Read advance reader review of The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, page 9 of 11

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The Personal Librarian

by Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray X
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray
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  • Published:
    Jun 2021, 352 pages


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Page 9 of 11
There are currently 77 member reviews
for The Personal Librarian
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  • Martha P. (Issaquah, WA)
    "Shhh!" Not this librarian.
    Being a former librarian myself there was no other book on the review list that I would have chosen. Belle da Costa Greene was the personal librarian to J.P. Morgan at the Pierpont Morgan Library in NYC in the early 1900s. She was in charge of acquisitions and the cataloging of rare art and manuscripts to build the Morgan into a world class library. Her close relationship with the famous financier was all the more amazing due to the fact she was a fair-skinned black woman who passed as white. This secret and the fear of exposure played into every aspect of her life. She became famous in New York society and the world of art dealers. Her accomplishments as a woman of that era were exceptional. I was pleased to see that the author collaborated with a black author which made it more legitimate for me. The writing is a bit ordinary but the story saved it for me.
  • Marybeth T. (Bellingham, WA)
    Such an interesting read
    So happy that I was able to read this. What could be better then a book about a rich mans private library? Getting to read the book from the personal librarians point of view.

    Marie Benedict does such a good job at time period and all the secrets that are happening. This book was a delight and I will be buying a hardback copy for my personal library.
  • Janet H. (Long Beach, CA)
    A time of fabulous wealth ... and racism
    This is the story of Belle da Costa Greene, the young librarian who helped build J.P. Morgan's excellent collection of close-to-priceless books and great art during the early 1900's. It reflects the times of the Gilded Age, the Great Depression and WW l. One of the major themes in the book is that Belle is a light complected black woman, whose mother has decided that the family will change their last name, the story of their origin and pass for white. This is a weighty burden for them. Though a little slow paced in the middle, I learned much reading this book, and recommend it as enjoyable and informative historical fiction.
  • Linda S. (Tucker, GA)
    A Little Mystery, A Lot of Books: Perfect for Bibliophiles!
    An easy and enjoyable read, "The Personal Librarian" by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray is the story of Belle da Costa Greene, the woman who becomes the librarian largely given credit for amassing J. P. Morgan's fabulous collection of books, rare manuscripts, and artwork for the Pierpont Morgan Library. In doing so she carved-out a powerful place for herself in the art world, all the more remarkable because Belle hides a dangerous secret. Telling the story from a first person POV and set mostly in New York City, the authors take the reader along on Belle's adventures through the restrictive mores and culture of the early part of the twentieth century as Belle describes some of the delicious artworks collected in the library.

    Two minor complaints: I would have liked to learn more about the process Belle used to suss out and assess the value of those artworks; also, early in her work with Morgan, Belle seems to have a higher opinion of herself that I would have thought, given her circumstances, but both of these are minor quibbles. From the first page I knew I would enjoy Belle's story - and I did!
  • Karen W. (Atlanta, GA)
    The Personal Librarian
    This novel, based on the real person who brought the Pierpont Morgan library to prominence in the early 1900s, focuses on her racial identity. Not only did Bella DaCosta Greene deal with gender bias, she secretly lived through racial bias since she was passing as white. This book is an interesting counterpoint to The Vanishing Half, since the time and financial status are so different. The style of writing in this book reflects the restricted customs and repressed emotions, however, which makes it a slower and perhaps less exciting read. Those who enjoy glimpses into the lifestyles of the very rich and also insights into rare book collecting will still enjoy it.
  • Patricia E. (Sugarcreek, OH)
    Historical and Relevant
    Both authors of "The Personal Librarian" were new to me, but I've already added some of their other titles to my reading list. It is clear that a great deal of research went into the writing of this book. I was impressed by the level of historical detail in this work of fiction as I was by the relevance of the subject matter. Focusing on both racial and gender rights in the first half of the 20th century, the story line shows both the progress we've made and the work still ahead. I feel certain that both book clubs I'm involved in — one for women only and the other for both men and women—would be pleased with this selection.
  • Celia K Phillips
    Sad But True
    I am reading an early copy of this book. It is about Marion Greener, a light skinned black woman. In order to realize her dreams of a career, she changes her name to Belle LaCosta Greene, and passes herself off as white. She becomes the personal librarian for J. P. Morgan who is building and stocking his own personal library, the Pierpont Morgan Library.

    I am reading this book during Black History Month. How ironic to be reading about a woman who feels that the only way to get ahead is to deny her blackness. It is 1903 and she is probably right, but I am saddened by this attitude.

    Contrast that with another book I am reading, 42 Today. It is a book describing the activism of Jackie Robinson 45 years later. What a huge difference.

    The Personal Librarian is very well written and in the voice of Belle. I think that Benedict has put the exact proper words in her mouth, depicting Belle as a highly educated speaker and thinker.

    I recommend this historical fiction book as one that really makes you think.

Beyond the Book:
  Belle da Costa Greene

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