Posts Tagged ‘Bloomsbury Girls’

I spotted this book on the New Books shelf at the library. I took a look, put it back, and picked it up again. The cover drew me in as well as the title, Bloomsbury Girls. It’s period (1950), it takes place in London (in fact in the literary, historical neighborhood of Bloomsbury), and a light read was just what I needed.

I can’t resist anything period or based in London so I checked it out and cracked it open the next day over my morning coffee. From the first page I was hooked. Bloomsbury Girls is well-written, the characters are multifaceted, and the story is evenly paced and interesting. There’s a bit of intrigue along with history and plenty of detail about post WWII London, including what people are wearing.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner (St. Martins Press) tells the story of a bookshop in Bloomsbury and its staff – three women and five men. It’s 1950 so there’s a lot of sexism going on but the women are punching back and climbing up that bookshop ladder, in their sensible shoes, one rung at a time. Here’s the dust jacket blurb:

Bloomsbury Books is a quiet, dusty, tradition-bound London bookstore that had persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, it’s a new world, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans.

Ms. Jenner is the author of the bestselling novel The Jane Austen Society, which I haven’t read but apparently a few of the characters from that novel show up in Bloomsbury. Also sprinkled into the story are appearances by actual historical figures – authors Daphne du Maurier and Samuel Becket, and American socialite Peggy Guggenheim.

Although I was disappointed that towards the end a few threads of the story were rushed, I still found Bloomsbury Girls a charming and rare “can’t put it down” read. It’s an excellent holiday gift for the reader (and anglophile) on your list.

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Man’s suit circa 1950. Image from Survey of Historic Costume, 5th edition.

He knew that appearances made a difference in life – how one dressed, how one looked, how one displayed success. So he wore his perfectly tailored crisp white shirts and jacket from Grieves & Hawkes at No. 1 Savile Row and his perfectly polished and shined brogues from Barker Shoes in Jermyn Street, shops long frequented by his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him.

Alec McDonough – fictional character in the novel Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner (St. Martin’s Press).

This quote reminds me of something a friend of mine told me. He said that when traveling he wears trousers with a blazer because he noticed that he receives better service and treatment in general when he’s dressed better. From the airport restaurant to the plane to the hotel – if he’s sporting a blazer rather than a sweatshirt, life is a little easier.

Tune in tomorrow for my review of Bloomsbury Girls.

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