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A Novel, by Natalie Jenner — A Overview – Austenprose

From the desk of Tracy Hickman: 

Natalie Jenner’s debut novel The Jane Austen Society was a global bestseller and one among my favourite books of 2020. Would Ms. Jenner’s newest novel, set in post-war literary London, maintain up below the load of public expectation and comparability together with her achieved first effort? Would the Bloomsbury Women be as much as the duty set earlier than them?

Cambridge to Bloomsbury

The story begins in Cambridge with Evie Stone’s unsuccessful bid for a place as analysis assistant. Refusing to return to the tiny village of Chawton in defeat, she units her sights on a place at Bloomsbury Books & Maps. At her interview with the bookstore’s Common Supervisor, Herbert Dutton, Evie’s fast considering throughout a medical emergency impresses Mr. Dutton and he or she is employed on the spot, a lot to the shock of the remainder of the Bloomsbury workers.

A Employees Divided

Evie finds herself thrust into an eclectic group of women and men at Bloomsbury Books. From Mr. Dutton’s fifty-one unbreakable guidelines that dictate each side of the working of the bookstore, to blustery Grasp Mariner Simon Scott’s territorial safety of “his” historical past division, to smooth-talking and impressive head of fiction, Alec McDonough—males name the photographs at Bloomsbury Books whereas Grace Perkins, Mr. Dutton’s secretary, and Vivien Lowry are charged with “elevenses responsibility” making tea for all the workers. Grace and Vivien are pissed off by the constraints positioned on them. Grace has modern concepts for increasing enterprise alternatives for the bookstore, however Mr. Dutton dismisses them.

“Thanks, Miss Perkins,” he lastly replied, trying virtually pained by her recommendations. “That can be all for now.”

It was certainly all for now. It could be all for tomorrow, too, and for the day after that. She would return to typing up his unnecessarily lengthy letters, organizing his voluminous paperwork into alphabetical recordsdata, and fetching his tea. Then she would go dwelling and do a model of the identical for her household.” (16)

Equally, Vivien chafes towards Mr. Dutton’s fifty-one guidelines and Alec’s “Boys Membership” methodology of working the fiction division.

“Vivien’s points with Alec ranged from the titles they stocked on the cabinets, to his desire for reserving occasions solely with male authors who had served in the course of the conflict. Along with her personal diploma in literature from Durham (Cambridge, her dream college, nonetheless refusing in 1941 to graduate ladies), Vivien had rigorously knowledgeable views on the forms of books the fiction division ought to carry. Not surprisingly, Alec disputed these views.

“However he doesn’t even learn ladies,” Vivien would bemoan to Grace, who would nod again in sympathy whereas attempting to recollect her grocery record earlier than the bus journey dwelling. “I imply, what—one Jane Austen on the cabinets? No Katherine Mansfield. No Porter. I learn that Salinger story in The New Yorker he retains happening about: shell-shocked troopers and youngsters in every single place, and I don’t see what’s so masculine about that.” (19)

Upsetting the Hierarchy

When Mr. Dutton should take an prolonged medical depart, he promotes Alec to performing basic supervisor and Vivien turns into the brand new head of fiction.

“Vivien not solely out of the blue felt free—she felt emboldened. She may take the construction and the strictures in place, the framed fifty-one guidelines of the store, the various pages of notes that Alec was already eagerly administering, and switch them in her favour. She puzzled if the boys totally understood what they’d performed, of their fervour to raise Alec.

It was to be a major miscalculation on their half.” (54–55)

On the similar time, Evie begins her seek for an undervalued uncommon guide from the Chawton Nice Home library that she now believes is value extra, each traditionally and financially, than when it was initially bought to the bookstore. However when she locates the guide, occasions shortly spiral uncontrolled. Evie will need assistance from Grace and Vivien to carry on to her valuable discover. Utilizing Mr. Dutton’s guidelines to their benefit, the ladies enlist a number of well-known literary figures together with Daphne du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Peggy Guggenheim, and Samuel Beckett of their plan to breathe life into the stolid environment of Bloomsbury Books & Maps.

“Grace sighed. “There’s a lot at stake—and so many individuals to maintain quiet. What if all of it blows up in our faces?”

Evie checked out each ladies in eagerness and requested with all of the optimism of youth, “However what if all of it goes proper?” (307)

Vibrant and Atmospheric

The various forged of characters in Bloomsbury Women held my curiosity all through the novel. Whereas the narrative focuses on the ladies on the bookstore, the male characters are usually not decreased to two-dimensional foils for the heroines. Ms. Jenner crafted the relationships between the fictional characters and those involving historic literary figures with equal realism and dimension.

Every chapter started with a featured rule from Mr. Dutton’s fifty-one guidelines for the bookstore, which frequently arrange an ironic twist or humorous state of affairs. For instance, the chapter starting with “Rule No. 41: All store occasions have to be held after hours” options Vivien arranging a literary luncheon with visitor Daphne du Maurier, held in the course of the day in order that extra ladies will be capable of attend. Ms. Jenner makes use of the post-war London setting to underscore the strain between the protection of the identified and the chance and doable reward of venturing into the unknown.

“Someday Grace had headed early into Camden City for her weekly procuring day. Simply as her bus approached the road of greengrocer, fishmonger, and butcher outlets up forward, she impulsively determined to remain on. The double-decker bus travelled subsequent in direction of the King’s Cross and St Pancras stations, winding and winding its approach farther south into town’s West Finish, farther than Grace ever had cause to go. She sat on the very entrance of the highest deck, staring by means of the clear gridless window as all of London whirled about beneath. She considered the guide she was presently studying to the boys at bedtime, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Beneath the Sea, and in a uncommon second of caprice that match her out of the blue impulsive temper, Grace may think about being on the entrance of a futuristic submarine roaming the ocean in exile, removed from the attain of everybody for whom she had been made accountable.” (39)

Readers of Bloomsbury Women can be impressed by Grace, Vivien, and Evie’s energy, humor, and resourcefulness as they wrestle for higher self-determination and respect. Natalie Jenner’s Bloomsbury Women is very really helpful historic fiction for anybody who appreciates the folks—writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, and retailer clerks—who contribute to the transformative surprise that’s conjured by means of the seemingly mundane act of curling up with an excellent guide.

5 out of 5 Stars


  • Bloomsbury Women: A Novel, by Natalie Jenner
  • St Martin’s Press (Could 17, 2022)
  • Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook (368) pages
  • ISBN: 978-1250276698
  • Style: Historic Fiction, Girls’s Fiction


We acquired a overview copy of the guide from the writer in change for an sincere overview. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cowl picture courtesy of St Martin’s Press © 2022; textual content Tracy Hickman © 2022,


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