Publisher and Publication Date: St. Martin’s Press. May 17, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature.
Format: E-book from NetGalley.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley, Austenprose, and St. Martin’s Press. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of women’s fiction/literature.
Rating: Very good.
“Jenner follows The Jane Austen Society (2020) with another top-notch reading experience, using the same deft hand at creating complex, emotionally engaging characters [against] a backdrop chock-full of factual historical information… Fans of Christina Baker Kline, Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff [will] appreciate this gem.” —Booklist (starred review)
“An illuminating yarn… Fans of emotional historical fiction will be charmed.” —Publishers Weekly
“Bloomsbury Girls is an immersive tale of three women determined to forge their own paths in 1950s London. Jenner has proven to be a master at spinning charming, earnest characters and paints a vivid picture of postwar England. I wanted to stay lost in her world forever!” —Stephanie Wrobel, internationally bestselling author of Darling Rose Gold
“Bloomsbury Girls is a book lover’s dream, one of those rare reads that elicits a sense of book-ish wistfulness and nostalgia. Jenner has created a colorful cast of characters in a story about friendship, perseverance, and the ways that determined women can band together in a man’s world. You’re in for a treat.” —Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary
“In a London still reeling from the ravages of World War II and the changes war has brought to English society, three young women take their futures into their own hands. With Bloomsbury Girls, Natalie Jenner has penned a timely and beautiful ode to ambition, friendship, bookshops, and the written word.” —Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library
“In post-war London, Bloomsbury Books survived The Blitz until Vivien Lowry, Grace Perkins, and Evie Stone set off their own bomb on the stuffy all-male management. What ensues is the most delightful, witty, and endearing story you will read this year. Natalie Jenner, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, proves that she was not a one hit wonder. Like Austen, her second book is even better than the first.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It
A MESSAGE FROM AUTHOR NATALIE JENNER:
I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.
Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine
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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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.
Bloomsbury Girls is my kind of story. It features characters who work in a bookstore, and of course talk about books and authors.
What I love about Bloomsbury Girls:
1. Evie Stone, a founding member of The Jane Austen Society, is an important character in this book. I love her most of all. She is a breath of fresh air. She is not described as a perfect and hard to identify with person. She is intelligent, hard-working, capable, independent, quirky, and very much an individual. I love her patience and planning of how to achieve goals. I love how she looks past the outward appearance of a person and seeks to know the real person. I love how she thinks. She ponders in her mind about people and life in general. And I love how the story shows her full personality. I became invested in the story because of her.
2. Other notable characters in the book each have substories. I enjoyed reading and learning about all of them. But as it is often the case, I want the characters to develop big. I want more of their stories. I don’t want snippets or small portions. Bloomsbury Girls has several characters who each have interesting substories that could become larger stories. Is it possible than one of them will have a future role as a main character in a book?
3. I love having a character who is not of white English descent. He is a person of another culture and society. He is a person who does not look like the rest. I love this. I love understanding a bit about his life in living in a predominantly white society. I see how difficult prejudice impacts him and his friends. I see how something simple like eating in a restaurant shows people’s prejudice. I am also glad Jenner allows the story to show his story and not tell me about his life.
4. Bloomsbury Books has a lengthy list of rules for the employees. I love the unique approach of showcasing each of the rules individually in the beginning chapters.
5. The story begins shortly after World War II. I knew almost nothing about the post-World War II years, especially in regard to rationing and looking back on the experiences of civilian life during the war.
6. The author adds her thoughts about characters. Not only do I read the thoughts and words of the characters, but I also read them from the author. This is the only thing I did not like about the story. I prefer the story speak for itself.
7. Dialogue is heavy in the book both in words spoken out loud and in thoughts.
8. The pace of the story is fine.
9. It is a character driven story.
Themes in the story: romance, compassion, kindness, marriage and family, spousal abuse, ambition, injustice, conformity, wisdom, dreams, grief, and hope.