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The Personal Librarian

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The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan's personal librarian--who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray. In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hi The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan's personal librarian--who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray. In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection. But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle's complexion isn't dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white--her complexion is dark because she is African American. The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go--for the protection of her family and her legacy--to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.


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The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan's personal librarian--who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray. In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hi The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan's personal librarian--who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray. In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection. But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle's complexion isn't dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white--her complexion is dark because she is African American. The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go--for the protection of her family and her legacy--to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

30 review for The Personal Librarian

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Well, I never considered myself as the biggest fan of historical fictions. It’s not my favorite genre. But when I get a chance to read about real life story of Belle de Costa Greene, I couldn’t say no to this journey! I was so intrigued, curious about that bold, creative, visionary, strong woman’s story who has created a brand new, outstanding, inspirational page in the history. She’s known as chosen librarian of J. P. Morgan whose main purpose to curate Pierpont Morgan Library. She’s the black Well, I never considered myself as the biggest fan of historical fictions. It’s not my favorite genre. But when I get a chance to read about real life story of Belle de Costa Greene, I couldn’t say no to this journey! I was so intrigued, curious about that bold, creative, visionary, strong woman’s story who has created a brand new, outstanding, inspirational page in the history. She’s known as chosen librarian of J. P. Morgan whose main purpose to curate Pierpont Morgan Library. She’s the black woman who is passing as white at the racist time of the history, working at the field which is dominated by male colleagues. Defining her as a librarian is not fair declaration because she’s unique curating and collecting skills of rare books help her to achieve an outstanding job. She also efficient worker to conduct her daily administrative tasks alongside her heavy responsibilities and as she juggles several balls above her head, she also feels the pressure on her shoulders to keep her race as a big secret which is a quite burden to deal with at this era! The book also reflects the sensitive triggering issues about Black American history and Black women movement: how they struggle to raise their voices, how they try so hard to adjust in the society as they fight against discrimination and restrictions to become a part of the community! Especially the black people’s rights to have college education and assimilation they’d endured were remarkable and thought provoking parts of the book. Overall: this is educational, inspirational and also strongly provocative, well executed, extremely engrossing book I couldn’t put down! I adored the layered, impressive characterization and unforgettable story of Belle de Costa Greene. Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for sharing this amazing digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    I am reading an early copy of this book. It is about Marion Greener, a light skinned black woman. In order to realize her dreams of a career, she changes her name to Belle LaCosta Greene, and passes herself off as white. She becomes the personal librarian for J. P. Morgan who is building and stocking his own personal library, the Pierpont Morgan Library. I am reading this book during Black History Month. How ironic to be reading about a woman who feels that the only way to get ahead is to deny h I am reading an early copy of this book. It is about Marion Greener, a light skinned black woman. In order to realize her dreams of a career, she changes her name to Belle LaCosta Greene, and passes herself off as white. She becomes the personal librarian for J. P. Morgan who is building and stocking his own personal library, the Pierpont Morgan Library. I am reading this book during Black History Month. How ironic to be reading about a woman who feels that the only way to get ahead is to deny her blackness. It is 1903 and she is probably right, but I am saddened by this attitude. Contrast that with another book I am reading, 42 Today. It is a book describing the activism of Jackie Robinson 45 years later. What a huge difference. The Personal Librarian is very well written and in the voice of Belle. I think that Benedict has put the exact proper words in her mouth, depicting Belle as a highly educated speaker and thinker. I recommend this historical fiction book as one that really makes you think. 4 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kristina McMorris

    So delighted to have had an early peek for a quote! I devoured the story while also learning so much. Here's my scoop: “Upon starting this novel, be prepared to do nothing else until you’ve reached its poignant, reflective end. Through brilliant pacing and with painstaking care, Benedict and Murray paint a vibrant portrait of a woman whose accomplishments, relationships, and secretive history were as complex and intriguing as the collections she helped curate. The Personal Librarian is a timely, So delighted to have had an early peek for a quote! I devoured the story while also learning so much. Here's my scoop: “Upon starting this novel, be prepared to do nothing else until you’ve reached its poignant, reflective end. Through brilliant pacing and with painstaking care, Benedict and Murray paint a vibrant portrait of a woman whose accomplishments, relationships, and secretive history were as complex and intriguing as the collections she helped curate. The Personal Librarian is a timely, provocative read perfect for book clubs. I loved it.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jacqie

    Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review. This just wasn't the book I expected. I am a huge book lover, used to work in a book store, and have a graduate degree in history, so I was expecting to really enjoy a book about JP Morgan's personal librarian, who was responsible for developing the stunning Morgan Library in New York City (used to be the Pierpont Morgan Library). Belle de Costa Greene was also a Black woman passing as white while she was doing this amazing work. I Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review. This just wasn't the book I expected. I am a huge book lover, used to work in a book store, and have a graduate degree in history, so I was expecting to really enjoy a book about JP Morgan's personal librarian, who was responsible for developing the stunning Morgan Library in New York City (used to be the Pierpont Morgan Library). Belle de Costa Greene was also a Black woman passing as white while she was doing this amazing work. I was hoping for details on the sorts of books acquired, how they were found, and how the library was curated. There was a bit of that, but the emphasis was more on Belle than on the books. The rare editions she secured seemed almost more like bragging rights than because of genuine love for the books themselves- at least that was what the book emphasized. Everything was for the glory of the library. Belle learned how to undercut prospective parts of the collection before they were auctioned, how to be a velvet glove covering a steel fist when it came to negotiations. These negotiations were more of the book than the research for how to choose prospective new pieces for the library. Art was a surprisingly large part of library acquisitions as well. Belle was really a dealer in rare books and choice art more than she was a librarian- at least as I understand the word librarian. The book also spent quite a bit of time on her love life, which I didn't care about and which wasn't written in a way that made me want to root for any of the participants. I skimmed to the end of this book because I was getting impatient with it. It was written by two authors and I've got to give Marie Benedict for co-authoring with a Black author who could speak to the difficulties of passing and who had a different, deeper understanding into Belle. However, the language felt a bit stilted to me and I felt distanced from the characters. I also didn't like the emphasis on books and art as prizes to be won instead of artifacts to treasure. I guess it just wasn't for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    Even though Belle’s father was the first Black man to graduate from Harvard, Belle’s mother knew the only way for her children to succeed in a racist America was to have them all pass as White. This combined with their intellect and a good education would help, but they also knew they would have to work twice as hard to prove themselves. Belle Marion Greener began her life in Washington, DC, surrounded by a large, loving family. Her mother’s siblings, Belle’s aunts and uncles lived right next doo Even though Belle’s father was the first Black man to graduate from Harvard, Belle’s mother knew the only way for her children to succeed in a racist America was to have them all pass as White. This combined with their intellect and a good education would help, but they also knew they would have to work twice as hard to prove themselves. Belle Marion Greener began her life in Washington, DC, surrounded by a large, loving family. Her mother’s siblings, Belle’s aunts and uncles lived right next door to her childhood home, along with her Grandmother. The ‘Fleet’ family were all college educated, the women teachers and the men engineers, where dignity and reserve were valued. The Greener family moved to New York when Belle was only eight years old, where she lived until she moved to Princeton, NJ, to work at the Princeton University Library, as the white woman now known as, Belle da Costa Greene, explaining her darker or olive complexion as Portuguese. The book opens in November 1905, with Belle at work at the Princeton University Library. One of the patrons is Junius Morgan, the nephew of John Pierpont Morgan (JPM), the banker and financier from NY. Junius is a generous donor to the library and an alumnus of the university. He enjoys discussing the subjects of art and literature with Belle and respects her knowledge. In fact, it is Junius who recommends Belle to his uncle J.P. as librarian for his new personal library and sets up an interview. Just 26 years old, Belle takes her place as JPM’s personal librarian of his new private library and is charged with curating the most valued manuscripts and art in the world. As she performs her responsibilities she quickly becomes known as a shrewd negotiator traveling to Europe to procure items for the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Belle is a determined and driven young woman, but she must always be on guard her entire life to protect her secret that she is not white, but African American. Even though she is very light skinned, as are most of her family and no doubt part Caucasian, the world will always see her as Black. And in 1905, and the first half of the twentieth century, it will remain as such. In addition, please be aware that while the Pierpont Morgan Library (now the Morgan Library Museum, open to the public), and its contents are discussed, Belle da Costa Greene is the main focus of, ‘The Personal Librarian.’ This is her story and a fascinating one it is. Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray did extensive research to bring authentication to Belle’s life, which was a bit challenging since Belle destroyed all her personal papers to try and guarantee her secret perpetually. Thankfully, she did leave her business correspondence. Both authors wrote exceptional and individual Author Notes, which describe their writing process and experience in collaborating on this unique project especially during the Global Pandemic. (Must reads.) Marie Benedict, an experienced author of historical fiction, knew she needed an African American author of like experience to help her validate and understand the racism Belle experienced. Marie felt, ‘honored by Victoria’s trust when she shared her own experiences.’ They also edited their manuscript virtually, over Zoom, during the Pandemic, and experienced even more during George Floyd’s tragic death and Black Lives Matter. ‘It was a life-changing experience’ for both. There is an Historical Fiction note as well to explain what is fact, and what is fiction. I highly recommend this exciting book by two exceptional authors. Thank you, Edelweiss, Berkley Publishing Group, and Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray. Note: I was given the opportunity to listen to the audio on Volumes, and narrator Robin Miles does an excellent job!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    Belle Marion Greener, her siblings and their mother were Black but elected to pass as white. She changed her name to Belle da Costa Greene to separate herself from her father Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard, a lawyer, educator and civil rights activist. The one thing this book accomplished was to make me interested in learning more about Richard Greener. Belle got a job as the personal librarian for JP Morgan, responsible for the acquisition of valuable works. Unfortunately, Belle Marion Greener, her siblings and their mother were Black but elected to pass as white. She changed her name to Belle da Costa Greene to separate herself from her father Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard, a lawyer, educator and civil rights activist. The one thing this book accomplished was to make me interested in learning more about Richard Greener. Belle got a job as the personal librarian for JP Morgan, responsible for the acquisition of valuable works. Unfortunately, I am not really interested in art acquisition. Also, this book was too romance novel/women’s fiction for me. I have no idea how much of this book was fictional. While I can certainly understand the urge to pass (parts of my family passed into white Philadelphia society), Belle’s story didn’t interest me very much.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Lester

    A remarkable story about a remarkable woman. Belle da Costa Greene was a true trailblazer, a woman I knew very little about, and I woman I now wholeheartedly admire. Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray’s novel is about Belle's extraordinary rise to power in the art world of the early twentieth century in her capacity as personal librarian to J. Pierpont Morgan. But it is also a stunning and timely novel about a woman who, in forging a path for herself, had to battle constantly against A remarkable story about a remarkable woman. Belle da Costa Greene was a true trailblazer, a woman I knew very little about, and I woman I now wholeheartedly admire. Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray’s novel is about Belle's extraordinary rise to power in the art world of the early twentieth century in her capacity as personal librarian to J. Pierpont Morgan. But it is also a stunning and timely novel about a woman who, in forging a path for herself, had to battle constantly against the limitations society tried to place upon her due to her gender – and who also had to hide her true identity from a racist world. The Personal Librarian is both a triumph and a fitting tribute to Belle’s courage, her fierce desire to protect her family and her personal struggle to be both the woman she was, and the woman she was not allowed to be

  8. 5 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    Author Marie Benedict has brought us wonderful fictionalized biographies of true-life women who have gotten lost in history, mostly overshadowed by the more famous men in their lives. Once again, she has brought us an interesting story of someone you probably have never have heard. The Personal Librarian is the story of Belle da Costa Greene. And to best tell the story, she partnered with another talented author, Victoria Christopher Murray, who was able to provide the right perspective for Bell Author Marie Benedict has brought us wonderful fictionalized biographies of true-life women who have gotten lost in history, mostly overshadowed by the more famous men in their lives. Once again, she has brought us an interesting story of someone you probably have never have heard. The Personal Librarian is the story of Belle da Costa Greene. And to best tell the story, she partnered with another talented author, Victoria Christopher Murray, who was able to provide the right perspective for Belle and her family. Together, they present us with one remarkable woman. In 1906, J.P. Morgan, American financier and industrialist, hires Belle, a young, ambitious librarian from Princeton University, to help transform his world-class collection of manuscripts, rare books and artwork in his personal Pierpont Morgan Library into an unparalleled masterpiece. This feared titan of industry soon comes to value his new assistant and she becomes a close confident. She proves to be a shrewd negotiator building his collection. But Belle is hiding a deep secret. She was born Belle Marion Greener. Her mother is from a wealthy Black family from Washington, DC. Her father is a graduate of Harvard University. The first Black man to do so. Once the family moves to New York City, Belle’s mother decides that the light-skinned family should pass as white to insure her children’s future. Her father is outraged and leaves the family. Belle’s life includes attending auctions and society functions, all while denying her true heritage. The Personal Librarian is a fascinating story of an accomplished woman who defied all odds to not only succeed in a man’s world but a white world. Authors Benedict and Murray, who are white and Black respectively, aptly capture the era and the world of the ultra wealthy. They did a fine job imagining the dilemma the real Belle must have felt living a lie yet achieving so much. It offers a good launching pad for a discussion on race. Perfect for book clubs. You’ll surely follow up the book with more online research on this intriguing woman. And don’t pass by the Author’s Notes. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Belle la Costa Greene was J.P. Morgan's personal librarian (and rare books and art collector) who went on to run The Morgan Library after his death, converting it into the public serving institution he always planned. Her story is fascinating, having to pass as white to live/work/move in the circles she did, how this issue separated her parents, etc. The authors did a great job at blending research with imagination; Belle may have burned her personal papers but all the people she wrote to and di Belle la Costa Greene was J.P. Morgan's personal librarian (and rare books and art collector) who went on to run The Morgan Library after his death, converting it into the public serving institution he always planned. Her story is fascinating, having to pass as white to live/work/move in the circles she did, how this issue separated her parents, etc. The authors did a great job at blending research with imagination; Belle may have burned her personal papers but all the people she wrote to and did business with over the years did not! An interview with the authors will come up on the podcast but in the meantime I can recommend this book of historical fiction!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

    What an excellent history lesson. I didn't know of Belle da Costa Greene. What an incredible woman in so many ways. Belle da Costa Greene has to hide her identity of being a black woman as she works as the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan in a high profile job. Her mother had listed the family's race as white for the census bureau against her husband’s wishes. Belle’s life wasn't an easy one, but her skills at buying and selling art and archiving and cataloging books earned her respect in this fie What an excellent history lesson. I didn't know of Belle da Costa Greene. What an incredible woman in so many ways. Belle da Costa Greene has to hide her identity of being a black woman as she works as the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan in a high profile job. Her mother had listed the family's race as white for the census bureau against her husband’s wishes. Belle’s life wasn't an easy one, but her skills at buying and selling art and archiving and cataloging books earned her respect in this field. THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN is another extremely well-researched, interesting, brought-to-life book of an unknown-to-me woman. Historical fiction fans and those who are fans of art will devour this book. This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    A Poignant and Enlightening Novel of the Woman Who Curated One of the Most Prominent Libraries in American History SUMMARY 1905. Belle De Costa Greene is hired away from Princeton University to become the director of J. P. Morgan’s personal library and art collection. Soon she is charming the New York elite with her style, personality and intelligence. She attends male-dominated auctions and travels the world to secure the rare books and manuscripts needed to complete the prominent collection. But A Poignant and Enlightening Novel of the Woman Who Curated One of the Most Prominent Libraries in American History SUMMARY 1905. Belle De Costa Greene is hired away from Princeton University to become the director of J. P. Morgan’s personal library and art collection. Soon she is charming the New York elite with her style, personality and intelligence. She attends male-dominated auctions and travels the world to secure the rare books and manuscripts needed to complete the prominent collection. But Belle has a secret that only her family knows. The revelation of this secret will ruin everything she has gained. Her career, her reputation, her relationships are all at stake. Belle is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first black man to graduate from Harvard University and a vocal civil rights advocate. He left the family after Belle’s mother, Genevieve Fleet, who is also from a wealthy African American family in Washington DC, insisted on raising and passing their children as white. Belle was a teenager when her father left the family. REVIEW THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN is a intriguing and informative historical fiction novel. It’s an expertly delivered depiction of Belle De Costa Greene, a woman well-ahead of her time. She is intelligent, controlled, independent and strong. You will fall in love with both her, and her gut-wrenching story. The story is richly anchored in facts given that both J.P. Morgan and her father, Richard Greener, were well-known public figures. Marie Benedict co-authored THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN with Victorian Christopher Murray. These two fabulous authors blended meticulous research, personal experience, and logical extrapolation to create this unforgettable story. The writing is poignant, smart and emotionally profound. You are going to want to clear your calendar for this delightful read. Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Publisher Berkley Published June 29, 2021 Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pavlína Černá

    When it comes to The Personal Librarian I cannot come to a single conclusion; I liked it but I also didn't like it. I was intrigued but I was also bored. I enjoyed it but I also rushed through it to get it over with. Marie Benedict's and Victoria Christopher Murray's The Personal Library is a historical fiction based on the life of Belle da Costa Greene, born Belle Marion Greener. After J.P. Morgan builds the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, wanting to create the most impressive collectio When it comes to The Personal Librarian I cannot come to a single conclusion; I liked it but I also didn't like it. I was intrigued but I was also bored. I enjoyed it but I also rushed through it to get it over with. Marie Benedict's and Victoria Christopher Murray's The Personal Library is a historical fiction based on the life of Belle da Costa Greene, born Belle Marion Greener. After J.P. Morgan builds the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, wanting to create the most impressive collection of books, art and manuscripts, he hires Belle to be his personal librarian. The year is 1905 and Jim Crow is creeping up north. While her light complexion, confidence and expertise in her field allow her to assimilate into high society, Belle has to be very careful not to reveal her African-American descent, which would ruin everything she has built. This is not the first time Benedict brought a powerful female character from the past to life. Her book The Only Woman in the Room about an actress Hedy Lamarr, who was also a scientist in disguise helping fight the Nazis, was a very pleasant and interesting read. This time, together with Murray, the two wrote a story that also started very interestingly. Before it stopped being interesting. The first half of the book, following Belle's assimilation into the society she knew she didn't belong in, felt thrilling and curious. It was fun to follow along—the more comfortable she felt, the sassier she became, flirting with men, asserting her position. But the higher Belle rose, the more I started to feel disconnected from the character I became so fond of. Writing in first person is a challenge for the character's objectivity, which is forgivable. But the issue here comes from oddly constructed sentences that ended up sounding unrealistic even as thoughts, let alone spoken words. When Belle described what it felt like to be in the back room of the museum restricted to employees only, and compared it to the magic of being backstage of a Broadway show, I felt pulled out of the story. How is this comparison helpful and how would the character ever know what being backstage is like? Belle's thought "standing so close that I inhale every breath he exhales..." did not arouse feelings of intimacy but rather made me cringe. The character started to feel indifferent, the story apathetic, the sentences carelessly put together. So many emotional events have been going on, yet none of it had any effect on me as the reader. I lost my connection to Belle. After finishing the story, I launched an internet search to get to know the full story of Belle da Costa Greene and was pleasantly surprised by how faithful The Personal Librarian is to Belle's life. I am glad I came across it and got introduced to Belle. While I cannot decide whether I overall liked it or not, one thing is certain — next time in New York, I will pay a visit to the Pierpont Morgan Library.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cheyenne

    When I first saw the title and description of this book, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I entered every Goodreads giveaway that popped up for this book because I couldn't wait for the publication date. I finally received an e-ARC through Netgalley and began reading right away, only to find that the book did not live up to the hype I had built up for myself. I appreciate the story of Marion Greener - known throughout most of her life as Belle de Costa Greene - being told: I think as Black When I first saw the title and description of this book, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I entered every Goodreads giveaway that popped up for this book because I couldn't wait for the publication date. I finally received an e-ARC through Netgalley and began reading right away, only to find that the book did not live up to the hype I had built up for myself. I appreciate the story of Marion Greener - known throughout most of her life as Belle de Costa Greene - being told: I think as Black women our stories have been hidden through force or necessity for far too long. However, this particular telling of her story just didn't do it for me. The dialogue frequently felt stilted or unnatural; instead of feeling like the dialogue was time-period appropriate I felt like it was written in a way that someone unfamiliar with the time would assume people in that era would speak. The way context was provided was also clunky sometimes, and I found it to be distracting from the story. I appreciated the author's notes and historical context at the end, but they also only furthered my confusion about a major parts of the storyline. Some of my discontent is my own fault - I took frequent breaks while reading this book and so it seemed in some ways to drag on forever. I tend not to enjoy stories written in first person or the present tense, and yet I attempted to read this one. Reading this book ultimately ended up feeling like a chore, ultimately. I enjoyed the book at times but by the end was excited to finally be finished.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bridget Healy

    I had never heard of Belle da Costa Greene before this book, but what an interesting person! What I wouldn't give to get a peek at that library in her time. I really enjoyed this book, the ending seemed a bit abrupt though. I'd like to read more of her later years. Thank you to Goodreads for providing me with an early copy! I had never heard of Belle da Costa Greene before this book, but what an interesting person! What I wouldn't give to get a peek at that library in her time. I really enjoyed this book, the ending seemed a bit abrupt though. I'd like to read more of her later years. Thank you to Goodreads for providing me with an early copy!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    I am not going to leave a detailed synopsis of this book I will leave that to others. Suffice it to say this was a terrific book. Thank you to BookBrowse and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review it. I learned so much about what goes into curating a collection, the auctions, researching authenticity and simply finding rare treasures. However the most interesting part of the book was the story of Miss Belle Green. Although she did not want to she was forced as a young black wo I am not going to leave a detailed synopsis of this book I will leave that to others. Suffice it to say this was a terrific book. Thank you to BookBrowse and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review it. I learned so much about what goes into curating a collection, the auctions, researching authenticity and simply finding rare treasures. However the most interesting part of the book was the story of Miss Belle Green. Although she did not want to she was forced as a young black woman to pass for white during the Gilded Age and enter into the highest ranks of society (Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys and Morgans). If her secret had been discovered she and her whole family would have been in serious jeopardy. This made the book at times read like a thriller. She was the most successful business woman of her time and her accomplishments were amazing. This book is well worth reading on so many levels.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    Marie Benedict always does a superb job of research bringing little known women to light and for this story she sought co-author Victoria Christopher Murray to bring the proper perspective of what life would be like for light skinned African American Belle in the all white upper crust society and art world of early 1900's New York. The result is a masterpiece that chronicles the important mark that Belle da Costa Greene made as the Personal Librarian to J.P. Morgan and the acquisitions she made Marie Benedict always does a superb job of research bringing little known women to light and for this story she sought co-author Victoria Christopher Murray to bring the proper perspective of what life would be like for light skinned African American Belle in the all white upper crust society and art world of early 1900's New York. The result is a masterpiece that chronicles the important mark that Belle da Costa Greene made as the Personal Librarian to J.P. Morgan and the acquisitions she made for the Pierpont Morgan Library. With very little real experience but a lifelong passion for fine art, Belle finds herself in a coveted position dodging jealous women and family, art dealers and other collectors and Morgan himself to become a respected and formidable businesswoman and helped bring the collections of the Library to worldwide attention. While one door is open to her allowing her access to the rich and powerful that only a handful of women had, another would be closed forever if her secret was revealed and she could be openly proud of her famous family. A fascinating story of yet another powerful and intelligent woman behind the scenes, this will resonate with fans of her other books as well as LIBERTIE and THE ENGINEER'S WIFE. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Renee Rosen

    Review coming soon!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Wagner

    This novel is so many things - an engrossing tale, a history of a woman both of her era and ahead of her times, a mix of history and fiction that compels and entertains, and, perhaps most importantly, a story with themes of race and privilege that has echoes today. I'd read a few of Marie Benedict's book previously and this novel, cowritten with Victoria Christopher Murray, is my favorite by far. I devoured not just the book itself, but the author's note at the end to learn about the nonfiction This novel is so many things - an engrossing tale, a history of a woman both of her era and ahead of her times, a mix of history and fiction that compels and entertains, and, perhaps most importantly, a story with themes of race and privilege that has echoes today. I'd read a few of Marie Benedict's book previously and this novel, cowritten with Victoria Christopher Murray, is my favorite by far. I devoured not just the book itself, but the author's note at the end to learn about the nonfiction sources the authors' used to construct this story. There is more I want to learn about this woman, her life, and her library. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is a great novel to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leona

    At first, this book was just something I would read to sleep. But then as soon as the pace of the story perked up it made me feel proud and at the same time, I felt like I was there along with Belle bidding against the pool of men and at the end acquiring what I wanted. I love how Belle coped up with her failed love interest and her "condition" as Mr. Bernard Berenson firmly stated (God knows I hated his character) she continued to stand tall and mighty paving the way as a woman of color. Althou At first, this book was just something I would read to sleep. But then as soon as the pace of the story perked up it made me feel proud and at the same time, I felt like I was there along with Belle bidding against the pool of men and at the end acquiring what I wanted. I love how Belle coped up with her failed love interest and her "condition" as Mr. Bernard Berenson firmly stated (God knows I hated his character) she continued to stand tall and mighty paving the way as a woman of color. Although I am thankful for Mr. J.P Morgan, like Belle thought, I think of their relationship as a master-servant one. Nevertheless, whether she was Belle Marion Greener or Belle Da Costa Green, one thing is for sure. Her impeccable wit and boldness are to watch out for 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carol (Reading Ladies)

    Thanks #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #BerkleyWritesStrongWomen #BerkleyBuddyReads for a complimentary eARC upon my request. All opinions are my own. The Personal Librarian is the fictionalized biography of Belle da Casta Greene, personal librarian to business tycoon, John Pierpont Morgan. Belle curates a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for the Pierpont Morgan Library. In addition to becoming powerful in the art and book world, Belle develops a reputation as a shrewd negotiator and ear Thanks #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #BerkleyWritesStrongWomen #BerkleyBuddyReads for a complimentary eARC upon my request. All opinions are my own. The Personal Librarian is the fictionalized biography of Belle da Casta Greene, personal librarian to business tycoon, John Pierpont Morgan. Belle curates a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for the Pierpont Morgan Library. In addition to becoming powerful in the art and book world, Belle develops a reputation as a shrewd negotiator and earns her place in New York Society. However, she has a well-guarded secret…..she is passing as white. The Personal Librarian is told in a straightforward chronological timeline (with some childhood flashbacks) from one perspective. I love historical fiction when it’s based on a real person and her accomplishment(s). Readers can depend on Marie Benedict for a well-researched story. Because Belle lived a private life and burned her private correspondence to guard her secret, the authors had limited primary documents and had to heavily imagine parts of Belle’s story. I love that Benedict teamed with Victoria Murray for adding authenticity to Belle’s voice as she wrestles with the costs and consequences of passing as white. Although the history is informative and interesting, it’s Belle’s reflections that are the most compelling parts of the story. Belle is a fascinating, smart, determined, driven, and clever young woman who is driven by success (instilled in her by her mother) as she makes her way in a male-dominated world. She is a bit aloof and always on guard to protect her secret and this doesn’t make her entirely likable but I do admire her, and hearing her (imagined) perspective helps me better understand the challenges and racism she faced. I’m recommending The Personal Librarian for fans of well-researched and well-written historical fiction, for readers who love inspirational stories of real women taking risks and facing and overcoming challenges, and for book clubs. For more reviews visit www.readingladies.com where this review was first published.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    It wasn't until the ending notes of this book that I found out this "personal librarian" actually existed. She was hired in 1905 to be the personal assistant/librarian to J. P. Morgan. During her entire tenure with Morgan, she feared being found out. She knew her art work, ephemera, books cold. But she closely guarded her secret. She was passing. In fact, her father was the first black to graduate from Harvard and worked to equalize treatment for his race. Her mother, on the other hand saw the b It wasn't until the ending notes of this book that I found out this "personal librarian" actually existed. She was hired in 1905 to be the personal assistant/librarian to J. P. Morgan. During her entire tenure with Morgan, she feared being found out. She knew her art work, ephemera, books cold. But she closely guarded her secret. She was passing. In fact, her father was the first black to graduate from Harvard and worked to equalize treatment for his race. Her mother, on the other hand saw the best way for her children to get the best that they deserved was to pass. One question not answered by this book. When was Bella's secret revealed. Excellent writing had me on the edge of my seat multiple times.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jessy

    A story of Belle, a (sometimes) monstrous titan of finance, and the fabulous library they built together. But this novel, based on the real life story of Belle da Costa Greene, is much more complicated, layered, and interesting than a fairy tale. It took me a few chapters to get into the story but I came to love the heroine’s balance of professional chutzpah and vulnerable heart, and the vibrant depictions of life in the gilded age (with attention to those not in the stratospheric heights of wea A story of Belle, a (sometimes) monstrous titan of finance, and the fabulous library they built together. But this novel, based on the real life story of Belle da Costa Greene, is much more complicated, layered, and interesting than a fairy tale. It took me a few chapters to get into the story but I came to love the heroine’s balance of professional chutzpah and vulnerable heart, and the vibrant depictions of life in the gilded age (with attention to those not in the stratospheric heights of wealth). This would be an excellent bookclub pick, too - lots to talk about in terms of identity, race, womanhood, relationships, and, of course, books!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    I wanted to love this and was prepared to love it but I was just so bored by it. Also didn’t like how the authors implied a love affair or wannabe love affair between the librarian and JP Morgan, which is completely fabricated. From my research, there were no rumors or hint of this. Just salacious that they felt the need to add for modern day readers. Which I hate. Why? I know this is historical fiction but I wish they would stick to the real history when it comes to morality. Just my opinion.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Powell

    This was an interesting story about Marion Greener, who was a light skinned black woman who changes her name to Belle Lacoste Greene and passes herself off as a write woman in order to go after her dreams. She ends up working for J.P. Morgan curating his personal library. It made me sad that she felt, and based on the time, probably rightfully so, that she had to deny the black part of her in order to get ahead but she was strong and didn’t let things stand in her way. The story is a great tribu This was an interesting story about Marion Greener, who was a light skinned black woman who changes her name to Belle Lacoste Greene and passes herself off as a write woman in order to go after her dreams. She ends up working for J.P. Morgan curating his personal library. It made me sad that she felt, and based on the time, probably rightfully so, that she had to deny the black part of her in order to get ahead but she was strong and didn’t let things stand in her way. The story is a great tribute to the indomitable human spirit and who she was and who she wasn’t permitted to be. It was fascinating to see in the authors notes that Marion’s father was the first black man to graduate from Harvard, but her mother listed them as white on the census to give them an advantage. This was well researched and well written and historical fiction fans will devour it. Thanks to Berkley Publishers and Netgalley for this Arc in exchange for my review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Basic B's Guide

    3.75. This is the JULY Good Morning America selection. Rave reviews from my trusted HF early reviewers had me excited to pick this one up. I really enjoyed this book but it didn’t quite blow me away. Mind you, I wouldn’t call myself the HF fan as of late. It dragged a little at times but honestly my patience is thin so take that with a grain of salt. This is an author collaboration of a contemporary author and bestselling historical fiction author and is so well researched! Once again I learned an 3.75. This is the JULY Good Morning America selection. Rave reviews from my trusted HF early reviewers had me excited to pick this one up. I really enjoyed this book but it didn’t quite blow me away. Mind you, I wouldn’t call myself the HF fan as of late. It dragged a little at times but honestly my patience is thin so take that with a grain of salt. This is an author collaboration of a contemporary author and bestselling historical fiction author and is so well researched! Once again I learned an important part of history that I was not familiar with at all. Make sure you read the authors notes. This is both timely and introspective as our country continues to struggle with racial issues. I alternated between the audio and physical book and found both enjoyable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Boyington

    I'm waffling between a 3 and a 4 star rating. The story was interesting but it was a little dry. I found small spurts of delight in reading the story and really marveled at Belle da Costa Greene's remarkable success for the time in which she lived. I felt sadness about the racism around her and her inability to embrace her true self. I'm waffling between a 3 and a 4 star rating. The story was interesting but it was a little dry. I found small spurts of delight in reading the story and really marveled at Belle da Costa Greene's remarkable success for the time in which she lived. I felt sadness about the racism around her and her inability to embrace her true self.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kim Villines Martin

    It might sound odd to use the word thrilling to describe a work of historical fiction, but that’s what this story was for me. It is based on a real woman who was Black, but had to pass as white in order to survive and thrive as the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire novel- what would happen to this woman and her family? Would her legacy live on? As it happens, I was reading Stamped From The Beginning at the same time and I really appreciated the added It might sound odd to use the word thrilling to describe a work of historical fiction, but that’s what this story was for me. It is based on a real woman who was Black, but had to pass as white in order to survive and thrive as the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire novel- what would happen to this woman and her family? Would her legacy live on? As it happens, I was reading Stamped From The Beginning at the same time and I really appreciated the added context and depth to my reading of this novel. It also kept me more engaged when reading Stamped.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    I’m so sad that I have to give a Marie Benedict book 3 stars, but I truly didn’t find The Personal Librarian as captivating as, say, The Only Woman in the Room. This book is about Belle da Costa Greene, the head librarian of JP Morgan’s collection of art. Greene spent much of her time acquiring pieces for Morgan’s gallery. For doing this, she was a big figure in the public eye, but there was one big thing she had been hiding her whole life: that she was not actually Belle da Costa Greene, of Port I’m so sad that I have to give a Marie Benedict book 3 stars, but I truly didn’t find The Personal Librarian as captivating as, say, The Only Woman in the Room. This book is about Belle da Costa Greene, the head librarian of JP Morgan’s collection of art. Greene spent much of her time acquiring pieces for Morgan’s gallery. For doing this, she was a big figure in the public eye, but there was one big thing she had been hiding her whole life: that she was not actually Belle da Costa Greene, of Portuguese descent, but Belle Marion Greener, a black woman and the daughter of a well-known civil rights activist. With the political climate of the time, race-based violence was tragically common, and she believed that passing as a white woman was her only chance at success. I do give Benedict & Murray a lot of credit for creating yet another enlightening exposé on the life of a generally unknown woman. I appreciate their thoughtful messages about the once unthinkable belief that all people could walk together as equals, regardless of physical appearance. But something about this book, especially its writing style, feels ‘off’ to me. I know that my main criticism of a book shouldn’t be this vague, but I’m not sure how else to put it. The time skips don’t help. I see it as a strange amount of YA pining and then mentioning the deaths of loved ones in passing. The ending of the book definitely fits this description. Unfortunately, I think the last chapter was my biggest disappointment. This is going in my “Did I read the same book y’all did?” folder, whenever it is that I get around to making that. This was definitely illuminating but, I’m sorry to say, not a modern masterpiece. Side note - when crafting a review of a historical fiction, does one write in the present or past tense??

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book was received as an ARC from Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I had a real deep connection with this book being a librarian myself and also for the strength and intelligence Belle had throughout the book. I have read so many historical fiction novels that really have tugged on my heart strings but The Personal Librarian dug deeper to the point to focus on the factors that we tend to take for g This book was received as an ARC from Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I had a real deep connection with this book being a librarian myself and also for the strength and intelligence Belle had throughout the book. I have read so many historical fiction novels that really have tugged on my heart strings but The Personal Librarian dug deeper to the point to focus on the factors that we tend to take for granted and that we often forget are a crucial part of our jobs as librarians and that is passion. It was admirable the approach Belle took to remain intelligent for the Pierpoint Memorial Library while keeping her social status in the spotlight but still staying true to her heart. This book could not have come out at a better time and it just signifies why I worked so hard for my MLS and why I love what I do. We will consider adding this title to our Historical Fiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Belle da Costa Greene is a librarian at Princeton University when she is approached by a patron of the university recommending she should interview for the newly created position of personal librarian to J P Morgan. Morgan is creating the Pierpont Morgan Library and is seeking someone to organize and manage his collection. Belle is anxious to succeed in this endeavor despite knowing that she has a secret Morgan can never discover—she is a black woman passing as white. I loved the descriptions of Belle da Costa Greene is a librarian at Princeton University when she is approached by a patron of the university recommending she should interview for the newly created position of personal librarian to J P Morgan. Morgan is creating the Pierpont Morgan Library and is seeking someone to organize and manage his collection. Belle is anxious to succeed in this endeavor despite knowing that she has a secret Morgan can never discover—she is a black woman passing as white. I loved the descriptions of Belle joining the social set, investigating and acquiring items for the library collection, and struggling to make sure her secret remained safe. Additionally there is an undercurrent of sexual attraction between Belle and Morgan who is 40 years her senior. This is a fascinating look at the Gilded Age, a peek into the affluent society of New York City, the search for the highly valued collectibles that will establish the preeminence of the Pierpont Morgan Library, and what it means to live an authentic life. Based on the life of Belle da Costa Greene, this book hit on all the notes for me. I loved Belle for her moxie and intelligence. The information about rare books, precious art, auctions, and world travels was interesting. The Personal Librarian was a great escape and read perfectly for that purpose.

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