cover image Bloomsbury Girls

Bloomsbury Girls

Natalie Jenner. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-27669-8

Jenner (The Jane Austen Society) spins an illuminating yarn about a London bookstore. Evie Stone, one of the first female graduates of Cambridge University, begins cataloging rare books at Bloomsbury Books in 1949 after being denied a position at Cambridge as a research assistant. Vivien Lowry, a stylish woman and budding writer whose titled fiancé was killed in WWII, also works at the shop and constantly competes with Alec McDonough, the store’s head of fiction, over whose ideas for author appearances will bring in the most business. Grace Perkins, a mother with two young sons, enjoys working at Bloomsbury for the time away from her mercurial husband, Gordon. Though the business is struggling, the owner is reluctant to sell, because he enjoys seeing how the store brings together people of various walks of life. As London continues to recover from the war, the women depend upon one another to find fulfillment, with Vivian pulling off a luncheon at the store with Daphne du Maurier, and Grace considering whether to risk taking her sons and leaving Gordon. Evie, meanwhile, discovers love and adversity with the store’s head of science and naturalism, Ashwin Ramaswamy, even as their relationship elicits racist scorn. Jenner’s well-plotted narrative gains strength from the characters’ bonds. Fans of emotional historical fiction will be charmed. (May)