I received a gifted galley of THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray for an honest review. Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review!
Publication Date: 6/29/2021
Rating: 4.5 / 5
THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN is historical fiction centered on the very real story of Belle de Costa Greene. Belle is hired by J. P. Morgan as his librarian, helping to curate the impressive Pierpont Morgan Library which is still open to the public today. In her ro, she helped Morgan realize his dreams which involved collecting rare manuscripts and artwork from around the world.
Belle was fantastic at her job, using her status as a woman of power to her advantage in a field dominated by men. No one at the time knew that Belle was guarding a very critical secret about her past. Belle was a Black woman who, along with her immediate family, were passing as white.
I found Belle’s story to be fascinating, from how she traveled abroad and collected pieces for the library to just how she navigated her everyday life. Because her secret was so carefully guarded, the authors had limited materials to work with in recreating her history, but she did a fantastic job bringing Belle to life.
Living in Belle’s head, we read about how much she has to wake up each day and put on a different personna before she walks out the door into public. Close with her family, Belle’s mother in particular worries about all that goes wrong with the relative fame Belle is getting. We also see what they had to leave behind, separating from loved ones in order to ensure that their Black heritage isn’t discovered.
This was a really fantastic read and beautifully written. THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN is out today!