The Personal Librarian

We rated this book:


Belle da Costa Greene’s story is an important one: she was a light-skinned black woman who, by passing as white, became the librarian to JP Morgan, evaluating and buying rare art and manuscripts from around the world, and establishing his private (and later public) Pierpont Morgan Library. In her day, she was the most successful career woman, and a model for other women as they strived for suffrage and greater independence. At the same time, living with her secrets meant that she was always at risk of being found out and could not advocate, as her father had done, for racial equality. Belle kept up the charade throughout her lifetime, despite rumors that swirled around her, both as to her heritage and to whether she was having an affair with her renowned employer. The two authors of this historical novel have combined their talents to recreate her story. But unfortunately, despite some lovely bits of prose and characterization, the text often reads as if it was indeed created twice, with a fair amount of repetition. And their interest in placing Belle into context resulted in the “historical” often overshadowing the “novel,” to the point of overloading the book with a fair amount of unnecessary factual events simply because they could. I did enjoy “meeting” Belle and learning how, by being more visible than most women would dare to be, she was able to hide in plain sight but, ultimately, wanted to like this novel more than I did.

Reviewed By:

Author Marie Benedict
Star Count 3.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 352 pages
Publisher Berkley
Publish Date 29-Jun-2021
ISBN 9780593101537 Buy this Book
Issue July 2021
Category Historical Fiction