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The Personal Librarian

by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray X
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jun 1, 2021
    352 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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  • Robin M. (Newark, DE)
    Feels like a biography
    Is it historical fiction? Is it a biography? I'm not quite sure, but I enjoyed this book very much. The authors were careful in their research and created lively and interesting characters, well-described settings and wardrobes and some very intense plot twists. The complexities of "passing" and the risks of doing this in the early 1900s are very apparent in the book and, sadly, remain relevant today.

    I will be recommending this to my Fact & Fiction book club because I enjoyed reading it, it is a well-written book, and because it blurs the lines between fact and fiction.
  • Carole C. (Newtown Square, PA)
    Another Great Story!
    Marie Benedict writes fantastic historical fiction novels and she's written another one with THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN. I haven't read anything by Victoria Christopher Murray, but definitely will after this book. This was a wonderful collaboration about a woman named Belle da Costa Greene who was the librarian and curator for J. P. Morgan's library of rare books and manuscripts. She tells the story of how she gains respect in the auction world, which is male dominated with her knowledge of rare books as well as her business sense. The struggle she has is she's a light skinned African American woman trying to pass for a caucasian woman. She does this because that is the only way she could get a job like this one. She's worried her secret will be discovered and she won't be able to help provide for her family. Her struggle with denying her true identity is very thought provoking throughout the book. I found her story to be very interesting and it kept me wanting to read about her. We need to learn more about amazing women like Belle who was an important part of history, but no one ever knew her story.
  • Virginia Lee B. (Cedar Rapids, IA)
    Fascinating Strong Woman
    Thanks to BookBrowse and Net Galley for the ARC of this book. It is the story of a young woman who works as the main librarian, curator and collector for J P Morgan as he builds his rare book collection. She becomes well known and well respected within the world of collectors. She is biracial and makes the decision to pass as white. I think because of that and from being a female in a male world, it makes it easier for her to take risks to show her competence and personality to others. I am always leery of historical fiction, and how many liberties the author may take. I am thrilled to say that my research showed that this remarkable story is very close to the truth. Very readable and extremely well written.
  • Linda J. (Urbana, OH)
    Well, I Never...
    ...heard of Belle Marion Greener. The daughter of Richard Greener who was the first African-American graduate of Harvard (class of 1870) and spent his life fighting for civil rights along side W.E.B. DuBois and Frederick Douglass
    I also never heard of Belle da Costa Greene who worked as J. P. Morgan's Personal Librarian and helped him manage his library and art collection into a pre-eminent for manuscripts and classics. Her mother was Genevieve Greener who decided to drop the final "R" in her last name and allow her light-skinned children to pass so they would get the opportunities they deserved and would not be able to get.
    I was on the edge of my seat so often during my reading of this book - waiting for the boom to drop.

    Bella lived a charmed life being able to take advantage of so much that working for Morgan allowed her.

    I only have one question after reading this delicious book. When was Bella's secret revealed?
  • Laura O. (Los Angeles, CA)
    Fascinating and challenging
    This is a wonderful book that brought a topic to me that I'd never seen discussed before in a novel, passing for white in America of the early 20th century. The book is very easy to read but challenges the reader at the same time. The characters are engaging and complex, the solutions aren't simple. It was absolutely delightful!
  • Beth S. (Ft. Pierce, FL)
    Unpredictable Title By Marie Benedict
    Marie Benedict's historical fiction novels provide pleasurable surprises. THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN adds elements of mystery. The writing duo of Victoria Christopher Murray and Marie Benedict immersed me in the professional and personal life of J. P. Morgan's librarian, Belle da Costa Greene. What a dream position for a young woman of modest upbringing! Life at the turn of the last century was challenging for many women: changing laws about women's votes and limited education. Prestigious Morgan's art collector and buyer of his treasures, Belle kept an intriguing secret. She was
    extremely successful but private. Please don't forget the historical and author notes at the end of this profound book.
  • Karen L. (Wilton, IA)
    Excellent Historical Fiction. Loved it!
    History comes alive in this book. I have read Marie Benedict before. She is very good at bringing historical women to life. I am not familiar with her co author but the book is excellent. The book is excellent for book clubs and people interested in African American and civil rights issues. I felt so bad for Belle - I feel like she gave up a personal life and happiness for her professional advancement. She did not have good work life balance. I believe it was unfair that she could not have both. She could not have both because she was a African American woman. I thought Bernard was a cowardly man who was unworthy of her. My heart broke for her when she had the abortion with no support from him. He was unworthy of her love and trust. Her mother tried to give her a good life but in the process expected too much of her and separated her from her father. Her professional life soared to the heights but her personal life was often in a valley.

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