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Review: The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Published: June 29, 2021

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 4.5-stars



It is not a surprise to me that I enjoyed this book so much. There are many things going for it that tick a lot of boxes for me: it’s historical fiction, based on true events, is about a strong woman in history breaking barriers and kicking butt!

I felt that The Personal Librarian gave a deep view of the life of Belle Marion Greener/Belle de Costa Greene. At times empowering, infuriating, intriguing, and depressing to read. Such was the life of a white-passing woman of the time. The struggles and turmoil (both inner and outer) that she had to go through came across in such an honest way that I could not help but be moved by the commentary that this book elicits.

Aside from the genuine feel of the telling of Belle’s story, the pieces of her life that the authors chose to highlight throughout this book were well established and layered. It gave us a solid view of who she was and how events molded her into the icon she became. There were times when this wasn’t always pretty but it was impactful all the same.

I know that many readers question her title of ‘personal librarian’ or that the book showed too much of Belle’s romantic life and not enough about cataloging of books but I rather feel they have missed the point. Yes, Belle was J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian and (as someone who studied as a library technician) this title encompasses far more than overseeing books and I appreciated the larger scope of her work that was given. This book is also meant to be about her life and not a play-by-play of the tedious task of cataloging. If that is what you are looking for, might I suggest taking a class? As much as I adore organization and books, Belle’s life is a journey I was enthralled with - romance and all.

It’s hard to believe that this is my first read from Marie Benedict but I will certainly be adding more of her works to my TBR.

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