One bookshop. Fifty-one rules. Three women who break them all.
Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, has gifted us with her newest book, Bloomsbury Girls, just in time for summer! It’s a compelling and heartwarming story of a century-old bookstore and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.
Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store 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 fiance 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.
Purchase the Book HERE
Bloomsbury Girls is the perfect read for those of us who love a story that’s set in a bookstore and is filled with books and bookish people. As I began to read, it first reminded me of 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, a slim volume that is forever memorable for most of us who have read it and/or seen the film. I enjoy books where the setting (the house, the shop, the city) is so special and memorable that it becomes like another character in the reader’s mind. In Jenner’s novel, Bloomsbury Books itself is a very much alive and poignant character–and one I enjoyed immensely.
Beyond the setting and the great bibliophile feels the book provides, Jenner has done an exquisite job of weaving together a beautiful cast of characters and their individual stories. There is depth and complexity to each character, each couple, each department head, each story arc.
Finally, the storylines surrounding the three lead female characters are delightfully drawn. I found myself intrigued by each one, enjoying their individual stories as well as the bigger plot at hand. When they begin to work together and their stories begin to tie together and intertwine, it’s intriguing and delightful. The things they accomplish when they link arms is truly inspiring.
Overall, this is a fun, summery read filled with all the good things I love most. I hope you’ll stop in and visit Bloomsbury Books. Though it may seem like an ordinary British bookstore at first glance, there is so much more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye.
If you have a long car trip ahead, or if you prefer to listen to your books while you work, the audio version of this book promises to be incredible. Acclaimed actor and narrator Juliet Stevenson, CBE, narrated the audiobook for Bloomsbury Girls, with a performance that has been called “vocal virtuosity.”
Stevenson is best known for her roles in Emma, Truly, Madly, Deeply, Bend it Like Beckham, Mona Lisa Smile, Being Julia, and Infamous. She is also the BAFTA-nominated and Olivier Award-winning star of many Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre productions. Regarded as one of the finest audiobook narrators working today, Stevenson’s other recent narrations include Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia and the collected works of Jane Austen and Daphne du Maurier.
Listen to the beginning of the audiobook here:
Stream Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner, audiobook introduction from MacmillanAudio | Listen online for free on SoundCloud
About the Author
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.