Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has resisted change for a hundred years. It is run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules, but in post-war 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing. At Bloomsbury Books, the women who work in the shop have plans.
Vivien Lowry: Brilliant and stylist, Vivien has been single since her aristocratic fiancé died fighting during World War II. A budding writer, she works in the shop’s fiction department. Grace Perkins: Married with two young sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s mental breakdown in the war’s aftermath. Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, they denied Evie a position as a research assistant in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she catalogues books.
Although the business is struggling, the owner is reluctant to sell, because it is a London fixture. In post-war London, these three women are determined to battle misogyny and find their own way. If they work together, their dreams just might come true. The characters all have secrets, secrets that could change their lives if exposed.
Remember on Seinfeld when Jerry and George pitched a sitcom about nothing to network executives? Well, that’s how I felt about the first half of this novel. It focused on plodding character sketches without much of a plot and I had a hard time keeping my mind off my grocery list. When the pace picked up, I started to enjoy it. I particularly liked the literary and cultural references to Daphne du Maurier, Samuel Beckett, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), and Peggy Guggenheim.
The author uses some clever writing conventions. For example, each chapter begins with one of the 51 rules that are posted in the bookshop and then the storyline deals with that rule. The book is richly detailed with a strong sense of place and has well-drawn characters, some delightfully unlikeable, and I adored the ending. Bloomsbury Girls is a light summer read fans of The Jane Austen Society, also by Jenner, will find charming. Other reviewers liked it better; I give it 3.5 stars.
Published Date: May 2022
Genres: Canadian fiction, historical fiction
Read-alikes: Freya by Anthony Quinn; The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin; The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher.