A Novel, by Natalie Jenner — A Review – Austenprose

From the desk of Tracy Hickman: 

Natalie Jenner’s debut novel The Jane Austen Society was a global bestseller and certainly one of my favourite books of 2020. Would Ms. Jenner’s newest novel, set in post-war literary London, maintain up underneath the burden of public expectation and comparability along 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 Normal Supervisor, Herbert Dutton, Evie’s fast pondering throughout a medical emergency impresses Mr. Dutton and she or he is employed on the spot, a lot to the shock of the remainder of the Bloomsbury employees.

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 facet 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 pictures at Bloomsbury Books whereas Grace Perkins, Mr. Dutton’s secretary, and Vivien Lowry are charged with “elevenses responsibility” making tea for all the employees. Grace and Vivien are annoyed 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 nearly pained by her strategies. “That can be all for now.”

It was certainly all for now. It might 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 information, and fetching his tea. Then she would go dwelling and do a model of the identical for her household.” (16)

Equally, Vivien chafes in opposition to Mr. Dutton’s fifty-one guidelines and Alec’s “Boys Membership” technique 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 completely with male authors who had served throughout the warfare. Along with her personal diploma in literature from Durham (Cambridge, her dream college, nonetheless refusing in 1941 to graduate girls), 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 girls,” Vivien would bemoan to Grace, who would nod again in sympathy whereas attempting to recollect her grocery checklist 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 all over, 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 absolutely understood what that they had executed, of their fervour to raise Alec.

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

On the similar time, Evie begins her seek for an undervalued uncommon e book 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 e book, occasions rapidly spiral uncontrolled. Evie will need assistance from Grace and Vivien to carry on to her treasured 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 ambiance 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 girls 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 aren’t diminished 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 regularly arrange an ironic twist or humorous scenario. 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 throughout the day in order that extra girls will be capable to attend. Ms. Jenner makes use of the post-war London setting to underscore the stress between the security of the identified and the chance and potential reward of venturing into the unknown.

“At some point Grace had headed early into Camden City for her weekly purchasing day. Simply as her bus approached the road of greengrocer, fishmonger, and butcher retailers 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 means farther south into town’s West Finish, farther than Grace ever had purpose to go. She sat on the very entrance of the highest deck, staring via the clear gridless window as all of London whirled about under. She considered the e book she was at the moment studying to the boys at bedtime, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Underneath 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 power, humor, and resourcefulness as they wrestle for higher self-determination and respect. Natalie Jenner’s Bloomsbury Women is extremely really helpful historic fiction for anybody who appreciates the individuals—writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, and retailer clerks—who contribute to the transformative marvel that’s conjured via the seemingly mundane act of curling up with a superb e book.

5 out of 5 Stars


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


We acquired a evaluation copy of the e book from the writer in alternate for an sincere evaluation. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cowl picture courtesy of St Martin’s Press © 2022; textual content Tracy Hickman © 2022, austenprose.com.