I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review for Bloomsbury Girls, courtesy of Laurel Ann Nattress at Austenprose PR.
Bloomsbury Girls continues the story of Evie Stone, who was initially introduced in The Jane Austen Society. However, Bloomsbury Girls works perfectly well as a stand alone. Enough of Evie’s backstory, along with mentions of events and appearances from several characters from the previous book, occur throughout the narrative, bringing the reader more or less up to date.
Evie is one of the first group of women who were permitted to earn a degree from Cambridge University in the late 1940s. Her application as research assistant, with an excellent letter of referral, was denied due to the deception of a fellow student and the fact that he was male. Needing to earn a living, Evie applies for a position at Bloomsbury Books.
The story revolves around the three women — Grace, Vivien and Evie — who are all employed at Bloomsbury Books, along with an assortment of male colleagues, and showing the challenges and prejudices faced by women in a male dominated world and workplace.
Mr Dutton was a creature of habit and rules who, due to the daunting uncertainty of the future, resisted spending time or money too far in advance. This was one of the many differences between him and his trusted secretary when it came to matters of business.
‘Thank you, Miss Perkins,” he finally replied, looking almost pained by her suggestions. “That will be all for now.”
It was indeed all for now. It would be all for tomorrow, too, and for the day after that. She would go back to typing up his unnecessarily long letters, organizing his voluminous paperwork into alphabetical files, and fetching his tea. Then she would go home and do a version of the same for her family.
Grace financially supports her family of two children and an unappreciative and unemployed husband who was damaged by the war. Vivien is single and independent, hiding her real feelings with an outward show. She’s a hard worker but is unable to secure a better position because she’s a female. Evie is young and still quite ingenuous, happily working in the rare books section of the shop and working towards bringing overlooked female writers into print.
Grace and Vivien particularly are restricted and frustrated in their roles, with much untapped potential, which in turn affects the shop. It’s stuck in a time warp, old fashioned and unchanged, directed by the manager’s daily rules. Privations of the war years are over but the management refuse to take action or even consider Grace’s and Vivien’s ideas to improve business. It was only when Mr Dutton is taken ill that changes slowly begin to be implemented, although it’s not a smooth transition by any means.
I enjoyed the inclusion of real literary figures such as Daphne du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, George Orwell’s widow, Sonia Blair, to name a few, and their interactions with the characters, all of which are well rounded and believable.
Bloomsbury Girls is a delightful, character driven story of books, bookshops, women fighting for what they believe in and against prejudices. The pace is steady which works well for the story and the intriguing cast, each with their own dreams and goals. The Jane Austen Society was an impressive debut and this is a worthy successor.
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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.
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.