Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner

Bloomsbury Girls is, very loosely, a sequel to Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society, but only in the sense that it follows one character from that novel into her future life (other JAS characters make cameo appearances in this book, but none are central to the plot).

At the end of The Jane Austen Society Evie Stone, a brilliant girl from a poor family, had performed an amazing feat by quietly cataloguing the vast library of books in the old manor house where she worked as a servant, and was on her way to study at Cambridge due to the support and encouragement of her friends in the Society. Bloomsbury Girls picks up with Evie at the end of her college career, her path to academic advancement thwarted by the old boys’ network. Instead, the same book-cataloguing and sleuthing skills that started Evie’s academic career now lead her to a rare bookshop in London that is mired in the past while the rest of the world seems to be moving into the future. Evie needs the bookstore job to support herself, but she also has a secret mission while there.

However, the novel is just as much about the store’s other employees, particularly the other two women, aspiring novelist Vivien, and unhappily married Grace who needs the job to support her husband and two sons. Though the women are the focus, the men of the bookshop are just as intriguing, as are the cast of real-life writers and publishing people from 1950 London who make fictional cameos in this book. I really enjoyed this perspective on the lives of working women and the book business in postwar London.

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