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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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    Jun 2021, 352 pages

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There are currently 81 reader reviews for The Personal Librarian
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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.
Barbara B. (Evansville, IN)

Suspenseful Life of Belle De La Costa Greene
I enjoy Marie Benedict's novels because there's always the hint of something suspenseful for the main character. Belle De La Costa Greene is the Personal Librarian for infamous investor and business magnate, J P Morgan. Belle encounters some good choices and some bad choices during her employment, with a great deal of courage and fortitude. Despite her love for family, friends and business associates, she does not possess enough individualism for herself.
The novel, with a New York setting during the early 1900's, follows a similar theme as Carnegie's Maid, also written by Marie Benedict. A pretty young girl takes employment with a very wealthy man in both stories, sharing income with her family. It is an enjoyable story, especially the information about collecting valuable historical art and books. Mr. Morgan's ruthless personality is quite evident.
Renee T. (Seward, PA)

The Personal Librarian
Having visited the Morgan Library and Museum on my last visit to NYC, I was interested to learn more about the amazing woman who worked to build such a wonderful collection and exhibit it to the public. While I was not a fan of the writing style, I did enjoy reading about Bella da Costa Greene's life and accomplishments. Reading The Personal Librarian will bring this extraordinary woman to life for those unfamiliar with her and her story.
Jane H. (Prospect, KY)

The Personal Librarian
I love the subjects Marie Benedict chooses for her books. They always provide great historical insight of women who were ahead of their time and thus were not properly lauded for their accomplishments. I had never heard of Bella da Costa Greene, or of the fabulous library of J. P. Morgan, so both were a revelation. The writing is not complicated nor particularly outstanding, but her research is impressive. I always learn something from her books and for that, I am grateful to get to read another one.
Julia E. (Atlanta, GA)

Intriguing Historical Fiction
The Personal Librarian is the little-known tale of Belle Da Costa Greene, the early twentieth-century woman who was Personal Librarian to financial titan JP Morgan. Widely admired for her knowledge, charm and shrewdness, Greene greatly shaped Morgan's vast book and manuscript collection before becoming the first Director of the Pierpont Morgan Library, once the collection was gifted to the people. As beautiful as she was erudite, Greene made a memorable splash during her decades long career close to New York's cultural center. Soundly researched and fast-paced, this collaborative effort between successful novelists, Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, will be welcome fodder for those who enjoy spirited stories starring strong, courageous women, though some will find its occasional romantic lit flourishes somewhat tedious.
Carolyn Leaman

THE PERSONAL LIBThe Personal Librarian by by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray
This book is professionally written by the combination of authors, one cannot tell the difference where one takes over a particular scene. At the end of the book the authors have notes which gives the reader a hint as to who wrote what. They have chosen to write this book in the first person, thus influencing the readers closeness to the protagonist.

The personal librarian is Belle da Costa Green, and she begins working for J. Pierpont Morgan in 1905 through the recommendation of his well-respected nephew Junius Morgan. Ms. Green had worked at Princeton University as a librarian for 5 years giving her the opportunity of meeting Junius.

Green has a secret; however, she must guard the rest of her life. She is a black woman living the life of a white person. Green’s mother Genevieve Fleet Green formerly Genevieve Greener divorced Richard Greener, the first black man to graduated from Harvard University and raised her light skin family as white, while dropping the “r” from their names. She moved the family from Washington D.C. to New York City in a rundown small apartment close to Columbia University where her son Russell studied. Bella had in addition to the brother, two sisters who were schoolteachers. Genevieve ruled the family with an iron fist teaching the children how to guard their secret life as a white family.

Belle leads a fantastic life developing a close relationship with J. P. Morgan as she buried her black life and lived and worked as an unmarried white woman the rest of her long life, while financially supporting her immediate family. She had the respect of many outfoxed art dealers not only in North America, but Europe as well. Belle was intelligent, beautiful, and had an extraordinarily effervescent personality known for her sharp quips. She turns Morgan’s renowned personal library into a library for the public after his death. A lifetime dream for Green.
This is a fascinating read following Belle’s career as she develops the J. P. Morgan library. She has many lovers and many suspects she and Morgan were lovers. Ms. Green always answered these inquiries with the quip “We tried”, which leaves the gossips still wondering.
Laurie F. (Brookline, MA)

Interesting Behind the Scenes of the Rich and Their Art
This was an interesting read on many levels. The novel depicts the story of Belle "Dacosta" Greene, the talented librarian of J P Morgan's vast art and manuscripts collection and her entrance into high society under a false persona given to her by her mother.

The authors intertwine issues of race, professional drive, and competition of the rich in acquiring valued, expensive pieces of antiquities into their personal collections. Belle is an intelligent, strong woman who navigates this world and the relationships it brings though her personal story is kept a mystery. An excellent read and education into the world J P Morgan and Belle.

Beyond the Book:
  Belle da Costa Greene

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