Reviews for Bloomsbury girls

Library Journal
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Sharp, stylish Vivien, whose fiancÚ was killed in action; wife and mother Grace, needing to work after her husband's war-wrought breakdown; and Evie, in the first class of female students allowed a Cambridge degree: all are ambitious women, and in 1950 London they have makeover plans for century-old Bloomsbury Books, still run exclusively by stodgy men. From the author of The Jane Austen Society; with a 150,000-copy first printing.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

As 1950 begins, Evie Stone has graduated with honors from Cambridge, but she needs her Jane Austen Society connections to secure a position in London’s Bloomsbury Books. The bookshop’s eclectic staff are focused on their individual areas of interest, and Evie fits right in with her unique researching abilities. But the store is struggling; they need to embrace change and work together on a special project Evie proposes or face losing it all. Jenner follows The Jane Austen Society (2020) with another top-notch reading experience, using the same deft hand at creating complex, emotionally engaging characters through subtle details and actions, while providing a backdrop chock-full of factual historical information. Readers will enjoy surprise appearances and references to notable authors of both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, sparking interest in the discovery of unfamiliar women writers of the past and in the culture of postwar London. Although Jenner's novels share some connections, each can be enjoyed on its own. Fans of Christina Baker Kline, Kate Quinn, and Pam Jenoff, as well as readers who enjoy novels about bookstores, such as Madeline Martin's The Last Bookshop in London (2021) and Kerri Maher's The Paris Bookseller (2022), will appreciate this gem.


Publishers Weekly
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Jenner (The Jane Austen Society) spins an illuminating yarn about a London bookstore. Evie Stone, one of the first female graduates of Cambridge University, begins cataloging rare books at Bloomsbury Books in 1949 after being denied a position at Cambridge as a research assistant. Vivien Lowry, a stylish woman and budding writer whose titled fiancÚ was killed in WWII, also works at the shop and constantly competes with Alec McDonough, the store’s head of fiction, over whose ideas for author appearances will bring in the most business. Grace Perkins, a mother with two young sons, enjoys working at Bloomsbury for the time away from her mercurial husband, Gordon. Though the business is struggling, the owner is reluctant to sell, because he enjoys seeing how the store brings together people of various walks of life. As London continues to recover from the war, the women depend upon one another to find fulfillment, with Vivian pulling off a luncheon at the store with Daphne du Maurier, and Grace considering whether to risk taking her sons and leaving Gordon. Evie, meanwhile, discovers love and adversity with the store’s head of science and naturalism, Ashwin Ramaswamy, even as their relationship elicits racist scorn. Jenner’s well-plotted narrative gains strength from the characters’ bonds. Fans of emotional historical fiction will be charmed. (May)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

In post–World War II London, three women battle misogyny at a stodgy bookshop. In Jenner’s follow-up to The Jane Austen Society (2020), former housemaid Evie Stone, age 17, has completed her studies at Cambridge, but, despite her genius for scholarship, the upper-class Cambridge boys club will not grant her the academic career she craves. Through her Austen Society contacts, she wangles a job at Bloomsbury Books, where men hold sway and a set of arcane rules keeps the female clerks toiling in the lower echelons of bookselling. From here, as in the earlier book, the lives of several characters intertwine. Vivien, of the fiction department, is a talented writer whose ambitions have been thwarted. Alec, her boss and spurned lover, is a less talented writer, which the near-omniscient narration makes clear in one of many pointed character assessments. Grace, a secretary, yearns to escape her controlling husband but fears losing custody of her sons. Ash, of the science section, comes to realize that as an Indian immigrant he cannot overcome British bigotry, however powerful the pull of his and Evie’s mutual attraction and matching meticulous personalities. The shop’s hierarchy includes Herbert Dutton, the general manager, who clings to power despite failing health, and Lord Baskin, the benevolent landlord. Except where Evie is concerned, class conflict is not a factor here. In fact, the dramatic tension suffers as conflicts are too easily resolved by lucky breaks, not to mention wealthy mentors. The timing of key developments often owes more to plot convenience than to convincing causality. The 1950 setting does allow for entertaining literary intrigues, including store events featuring Daphne du Maurier and Samuel Beckett, which spark kerfuffles and exacerbate the gender wars that are the overriding preoccupation of this novel. Much of the plot revolves around overlooked women writers, notably Jane Webb, author of a prescient but forgotten 1827 novel called The Mummy! However, readers can be comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, in the expectation that the women will prevail. A rose-tinted view of early 1950s literary feminism. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Jenner's sequel to The Jane Austen Society can be enjoyed by those who have not read the first book. Set in 1950, it is the story of three women from different backgrounds who come together working in an old-fashioned bookstore in London, Bloomsbury Books. The shop runs with a strictly enforced list of "51 Rules" that ensure that only the men can make decisions or get ahead. Evie Stone, who appeared in the previous book, had hoped to launch an academic career at Cambridge, but was passed over for a man who was dating the professor's daughter. Vivien Lowry was engaged to an aristocrat who was killed in World War II. Grace Perkins lives with two adored sons and a mentally ill, out-of-work husband who was changed by the war. There is sexual tension among characters, and they all have secrets. The novel's background action includes real places in London and real literary figures of the time, including Daphne Du Maurier and Sonia Blair, George Orwell's widow, who mentor the characters. VERDICT For readers interested in women's changing roles after World War II, with intriguing details of women's lives and the spice of real writers.—Jan Marry

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