May 17, 2022
Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction (post-WW11), Book About Books, London, Bookshop
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Welcome to my stop on the Bloomsbury Girls Blook Tour. Thanks for the invite #AustenProsePR and thanks #Netgalley @StMartinsPress for a complimentary eARC of #BloomsburyGirls by Natalie Jenner upon my request. All opinions are my own.
Bloomsbury Girls is a spin-off of The Jane Austen Society but can be read as a stand-alone. The story takes place in an old bookstore in post-war London. Bloomsbury books is run by men and the staff is dedicated to following the general manager’s fifty-one rules; however, the three women working there have their own ambitions and dreams. Because it’s the 1950s and women have been thrust into the workplace while men have been at war. women are often taking leadership and asserting their own ideas which may differ from the way things have always been done. At this very traditional bookshop run by men, stylish and creative Vivian, hard-working Grace, and scholarly Evie join forces to shake things up a bit, add their own flair, introduce new ideas and procedures, and chase their own dreams. As a bonus, there is plenty of name-dropping of (their) contemporary literary legends.
How many are too many?
If you encounter a rule, do you think about breaking it, ignoring it, or bending it?
Do you think women or men see rules in different ways?
When is a rule worth breaking?
Structure: Packed with historical detail, Bloomsbury Girls is a book about books, bookish people, women supporting women, and the writing life. The beginning of the story introduces us to all the characters (might want to take notes!). I loved the clever use of one of the manager’s fifty-one rules as chapter introductions! This strategy interspersed some lightheartedness and quirkiness among thoughtful themes. In addition, breaking and/or bending the rules adds interest to the story as it escalates the action. The latter part of the story nicely picks up the pace as we witness the three main characters “bloom.”
Characters: Although there are many characters, the three women characters chase their dreams and are well-drawn. It’s inspiring and sometimes entertaining to observe them take leadership, find their voices, and bend and break some of the fifty-one rules. Evie is a shy and unassuming character from The Jane Austen Society and it is fun to see her as one of the main leads here. (This story can be read as a stand-alone). Book lovers will enjoy the several appearances and/or references to many literary well-knowns of the era.
Power: One interesting aspect that the story explores is the position of women in the post-war era. During the war, women enjoyed more opportunities to follow their dreams outside of the home and experience working in jobs traditionally held by men. When the men returned, they were surprised to find that the women were not ready to relinquish their newfound freedom and power.
“Vivian, like Grace, had joined had joined the shop just as the world was emerging from the ashes of war. Life back then had seemed full of possibility and freedom, especially for the women who had taken charge while the men were off fighting. This was the social contract that had been forged to sustain each of them during a time of great pain and sacrifice: of whom much had been asked, much would later be given.
But the past had a way of slipping back through even the tiniest of cracks in a fractured world. Women such as Vivian and Grace had hoped for a fresh beginning for everyone; but five years on, new opportunities for women were still being rationed along with the food. Those in power would always hold on to any excess supply, even to the bitter end.”
Themes: Lovely and thoughtful themes include women supporting women, friendship, finding your voice, taking risks, innovation, determination and perseverance, women in leadership positions, and thinking outside the box.
Recommended: I’m enthusiastically recommending Bloomsbury Girls for fans of books about books and stories about strong women and for those who appreciate a post-WW11 London setting.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Meet the Author, Natalie Jenner
Natalie Jenner is the author of two books, the instant international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY (2020) and the forthcoming BLOOMSBURY GIRLS (2022). A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was named one of the best books of 2020 by Amazon, was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller, and has been sold for translation in twenty-one 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. To learn more, visit http://www.nataliejenner.com.
Is Bloomsbury Girls on your TBR or have you read it?
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