cover image The Personal Librarian

The Personal Librarian

Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. Berkley, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-

Benedict (The Mystery of Mrs. Christie) and Murray (Wrath) deliver a powerful take on the accomplishments of J.P. Morgan’s librarian. In 1906, Belle da Costa Greene is hired away from Princeton University to run the Pierpont Morgan Library. There, Belle adds notable works to the library’s collection and successfully navigates a high-stakes auction. As Belle’s position requires her to attend social events with New York’s elite, she is ever cognizant of maintaining the secrecy of her Black heritage, asserting that her grandmother is Portuguese. Belle’s father, Richard Greener, an equal rights advocate, was the first Black man to graduate from Harvard University, and left the family after Belle’s mother insisted on raising her as white. Though Belle enjoys her personal success as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian, which brings her significant influence in the city’s art world and rare books market, her public role increases her risk of exposure for passing as white, which she fears would cost her the job and bring an end to her family’s financial support. Benedict and Murray do a great job capturing Belle’s passion and tenacity as she carves a place for herself in a racist male-dominated society. This does fine justice to a remarkable historical figure. (June)