Book Review of
The Personal Librarian
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray was published in 2021. It is historical fiction set in the early 1900s.
Belle de Costa Green was hired by J.P. Morgan to curate his collection of art, books, and manuscripts, at his Pierpont Morgan Library. The opportunity is beyond what Belle could have imagined, but she has a secret that would destroy her dreams if revealed.
I am in the minority in this book. At least I am according to Amazon. This book has over thirty-four thousand reviews, most of which are four and five-star reviews.
This is often the case with me and historical fiction. I often do not like what others do and I don’t shy away from sharing my opinions on historical fiction. I was very honest in my review of the Engineer’s Wife. Although I liked The Personal Librarian more than I did The Engineer’s Wife, it still wasn’t my favorite historical fiction book.
Let me start by saying that the writing is great in this book. It draws you in. The descriptions are amazing. It shares a time and place that not a lot of people have read about.
I also want to say that I kind of broke my rule for reading historical fiction by reading this one. That may be the main reason that I didn’t enjoy it all that much.
In general, when it comes to historical fiction I prefer books about a place or time period over books based on people, especially famous people.
This book is based on a person, but she wasn’t a famous one, which is why I picked it up to read. I knew nothing about Belle da Costa Greene. I was hoping to learn a lot about her.
And I did. But I also read a lot of fiction about her in this book because she was a very private person and there isn’t a lot known about her.
I also felt like this book was too packed with issues. It was like they were trying to pack a huge amount of modern- issues into a book set in the early 1900s.
You don’t have to agree with history for it to be history. Many of the things that we deal with today were the same issues that they deal with in the 1900s.
However, I think this book did a disservice to itself by trying to focus on all the things.
Racism, women’s rights, abortion, divorce, affairs, WWI, modern art, and more. I think the book would have been better and more impactful if it had only focused on a couple of those things instead of becoming preachy about all the things.
Yes, those things happened in history. We need to learn about them, but packing them all into one book was a lot. At least in my opinion.
However, if you read other reviews on it you will find that those are the reasons a lot of people loved it. They loved the fact that this book covered so many things and that it incorporated modern issues into a book set in the early 1900s.
The overall writing in this book is good. I can see why so many people enjoyed it. But it just wasn’t the book for me.