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Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner


From Natalie Jenner, bestselling author of The Jane Austin Society, comes Bloomsbury Girls, a new historical fiction novel.


The three main characters, Vivien Lowry, Grace Perkins, and Evelyn Stone are on the staff of Bloomsbury Books, an old fashioned new and rare bookshop in post-war London. Vivien, stylish and ambitious, is still grieving for her fiancé who was killed in action. For Grace, Bloomsbury Books is a refuge away from an unhappy marriage. Evelyn, a former servant girl and Cambridge graduate is on a secret mission, to locate a rare and valuable book called The Mummy.


Their desire to escape from their submissive roles and to reach their full potential is thwarted by the male staff who firmly believe that men should be in charge. Their sense of entitlement has been shaped by the prevailing social mores, but the world is changing and so should they.

The longstanding eccentric General manager, Herbert Dutton, has devised fifty-one rules for his staff which they must obey. Unbeknown to him they frequently break them. The rules have also cleverly been used as the chapter headings.


A serious medical emergency changes everything. Mr. Dutton is forced to take extended leave. Vivien is temporarily elevated to Manager of Fiction. She seizes the opportunity to make changes with alacrity, starts filling the shelves with books by women authors (which had hitherto been neglected) and puts on a highly successful literary luncheon, with Simone de Beauvoir as the invited speaker. It attracts wide media attention and profits begin to rise.


But, as soon as Mr. Dutton returns, it is back to the same old ways. As the profits slide down again the owner must make a decision about the shop’s future.


The suspense builds as the women, assisted by some famous literary women who have befriended them, hatch a grand plan to save the shop and turn this precarious situation to their advantage. But will they be able to put it into action?


Wherever I am, at home or abroad, if I can find a bookshop to browse in, I’m in my happy place. So, the fact that the setting was a bookshop immediately attracted me. There is also a tantalizing glimpse of 1950’s London when the characters spend time after hours socializing.


The way the personal and professional lives of the staff intertwine added a pleasing complexity to the story. Despite a mutual attraction, Alec McDonough, the Head of fiction, and Vivien spar incessantly. The friendship between Ashwin Ramaswamy, the Head of science and naturalism, and Evie gradually blossoms in a very circumspect way. While Lord Baskin, the genial and kindhearted owner of Bloomsbury Books is attracted to Grace.


But as a feminist, what I found most memorable was the engaging way way in which Natalie Jenner brought the struggles for equality by these three women to life.


Reviewer: Lyn Potter

Allison & Busby, Limited.


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