The Personal Librarian By Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray is a historical fiction book. It gives us insight into growing up African American after the Civil War. This book was a well-thought out, well-informed historical fiction about Belle da Costa Greene, who began her life as Marion Greener. The two writers did in-depth research and added that with the imagined however realistic inner life of Belle.
Belle De Costa Greene in the year 1905 is hired by Princeton University to become the director of J. P. Morgan’s art collection and library. Soon she is pleasing the New York elite with her style, character and knowledge. She goes to male-dominated auctions and ventures to the far corners of the world to secure the uncommon books and manuscripts needed to finish a prominent collection.
However, Belle has a hidden secret that only her family knows. The disclosure of this secret will demolish all that she has acquired. Her relationship, her reputation, and her career are all in question. Belle is the daughter of Richard Greener. He was the first black man to graduate from Harvard University and was a vocal civil rights advocate. He left the family after Belle’s mom, Genevieve Fleet, who is likewise from a rich African American family in Washington DC, demanded bringing up and passing their kids as white. Belle was a teenager when her dad left the family.
The Personal Librarian plot is fascinating, especially because most people have never heard of Belle de Costa Greene. Oh well, Belle doesn’t earn our unalloyed compassion. She obediently upholds her mom and siblings monetarily. However, she likewise revels in her brilliance and capacity to size up her rivals; appreciates flaunting her glamorous wardrobe; flirts with powerful people to get everything she might want; and has an affair with a man of questionable ethics. Just later in her life Belle tried to redeem herself by participating in humanitarian activities.
J. P. Morgan seems to be totally one-dimensional. He is a self centered man who is wildly competitive and aggressive. His respect for Greene is generally dependent upon her capacity to acquire for him the objects that he longings for his collections.
I highly recommend The Personal Librarian By Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. Specially to anyone interested in a story based on a strong, witty, passionate woman and anyone interested in this period.