I am honored and thrilled to be participating in my very first book tour for Natalie Jenner’s new release, Bloomsbury Girls. After discovering The Jane Austen Society last year, I discovered Jenner is an author worth reading and have anticipated her latest with eagerness.
ABOUT THE BOOK
- Title: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel
- Author: Natalie Jenner
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (May 17, 2022)
- Length: (368) pages
- Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
- ISBN: 978-1250276698
- Tour Dates: May 2-29, 2022
Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.
Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has 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, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:
Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.
Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.
Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.
As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.
What an absolutely delightful story Bloomsbury Girls is! Though it seemed to start a bit slow, I soon found myself engaged in the world of 1950’s London, Bloomsbury Books and it’s various inhabitants. By the end I was cheering and giggling with glee at the final outcome.
For those who read Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society, you should be just as pleased as I was to see more of Evie Stone, who is joined by a cast of fascinating characters including fellow female employees Vivian Lowery and Grace Perkins along with the men in charge of Bloomsbury Books, in what is a very well-written ensemble piece.
In essence, the main plot is an intriguing and respectfully written battle of the sexes and Evie’s arrival is the unwitting catalyst for change. Together with Grace and Vivien, the ladies slowly start to recognize injustice and begin challenging their male superiors at the bookshop. This leads to all sorts of delicious encounters for the women and bewildering upheavals for the men. I especially admired how Jenner weaves in real historical characters in a believable way. The ladies of Bloomsbury Books have the chance to mingle with literary hoi polloi; people like Daphne du Maurier, Samuel Beckett, George Orwell’s widow Sonya Brownell Blair, socialite Peggy Guggenheim, Ellen Doubleday (of the publishing house) and others. It was also nice to see the reappearance of Mimi Harrison and Yardley Sinclair, Evie’s friends from the Jane Austen Society.
Jenner wisely takes the time to build and develop each character’s background and personality so that their interests and motivations are easily understood. She makes them all feel so alive, that I felt I knew each of them personally, in their foibles, quirks, strengths and weaknesses. Bloomsbury Books itself is a supporting character in the story, a place of both refuge and war, limitation and inspiration.
Bloomsbury Girls is a very fitting title as each of the women who have found themselves buried under cultural expectations, grief, sexism, and emotional abuse begin to bloom into their full selves through their work at the store and their fight for equality until they all experience the freedom and independence they deserve.
I don’t usually listen to audio books as I am so easily distracted, but the narration by Juliet Stevenson is outstanding. Her adeptness at differentiating between the characters through tone, inflection and accents really added to my overall enchantment with Bloomsbury Girls.
I couldn’t find a single thing I didn’t enjoy about Bloomsbury Girls. In fact, I enjoyed it even more than its predecessor The Jane Austen Society. The pace starts slow before building to a crescendo of activity. Bloomsbury Books and its’ inhabitants are all people I grew to care about despite their imperfections. Or maybe because of them. I even appreciated that the feminist message actually ended in happy ever afters for the men as well as the women. This has been one of my favorite book experiences this year and one I don’t hesitate to recommend.
“Jenner follows The Jane Austen Society (2020) with another top-notch reading experience, using the same deft hand at creating complex, emotionally engaging characters [against] a backdrop chock-full of factual historical information… Fans of Christina Baker Kline, Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff [will] appreciate this gem.” —Booklist (starred review)
“An illuminating yarn… Fans of emotional historical fiction will be charmed.” —Publishers Weekly
“Bloomsbury Girls is an immersive tale of three women determined to forge their own paths in 1950s London. Jenner has proven to be a master at spinning charming, earnest characters and paints a vivid picture of postwar England. I wanted to stay lost in her world forever!” —Stephanie Wrobel, internationally bestselling author of Darling Rose Gold
“Bloomsbury Girls is a book lover’s dream, one of those rare reads that elicits a sense of book-ish wistfulness and nostalgia. Jenner has created a colorful cast of characters in a story about friendship, perseverance, and the ways that determined women can band together in a man’s world. You’re in for a treat.” —Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary
“In a London still reeling from the ravages of World War II and the changes war has brought to English society, three young women take their futures into their own hands. With Bloomsbury Girls, Natalie Jenner has penned a timely and beautiful ode to ambition, friendship, bookshops, and the written word.” —Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library
“In post-war London, Bloomsbury Books survived The Blitz until Vivien Lowry, Grace Perkins, and Evie Stone set off their own bomb on the stuffy all-male management. What ensues is the most delightful, witty, and endearing story you will read this year. Natalie Jenner, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, proves that she was not a one hit wonder. Like Austen, her second book is even better than the first.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine
A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR
Dear readers, I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it. Warmest regards, Natalie
Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty 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. Visit her website to learn more.