Friday, 20 May 2022

Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner

Blog Tour: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner
Today I’m taking a bit of a departure from the Austenesque and taking part in the blog tour for Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner. Now, this isn’t an entire departure, as one of the main characters of Bloomsbury Girls was in Ms Jenner’s previous book The Jane Austen Society, which was a fictionalised account based on the setting up of the real society, which secured Austen’s last home in Chawton, which is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum, in Chawton. I really enjoyed that book, so was keen to read this one too. I’ll tell you a bit about the book (which is available now in ebook, hardback and audio) and then I’ll move on to my review of the book.  

Book cover: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner. Picture shows 3 women walking together with linked arms in a 1940s shopping area.
Book Description

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances--most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she's been working to support the family following her husband's breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she's working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time--Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others--these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.



Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine

Book cover: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner. Cover shows three ladies walking with linked arms in a 1940s shopping area
My Review of Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner

I thoroughly enjoyed Natalie Jenner’s first book, The Jane Austen Society, which was a fictionalised account of the setting up of the society, which secured Chawton cottage, now the Jane Austen House Museum. One of the characters from that novel, Miss Evie Stone, has progressed from Chawton, through Cambridge, as one of the first women to receive a degree. Evie is talented, intelligent, and a hard worker, but she isn’t part of the inner circle, the old boys network, or even merely male, and these things work against her. She ends up missing out on a research position and through the recommendation of another of the Jane Austen Society, finds herself attending a job interview at Bloomsbury Books in London.

The bookshop is home to six other members of staff, the senior members of staff all being male, regardless of talent. This doesn’t matter to Grace, an oddity in being a working wife, her husband being medically unable to work due to his mental state following the second world war, but Vivien is talented, energetic and ambitious, and it grates so hard on her that she is sidelined purely for her gender:

'Women such as Vivien and Grace had hoped for a fresh beginning for everyone; but five years on, new opportunities for women were still being rationed along with the food. Those in power would always hold on to any excess supply, even to the bitter end.'

The women of Bloomsbury Books have differences, but there is one thing that they have in common. All of them are being held in place by men – Evie has missed out on academic opportunities, Vivien is held back in her job, and in her writerly aspirations and Grace constrained by her husband’s controlling ways and society’s rules. A temporary reorganisation in work means that Vivien has more power. And she is going to use that to her advantage, while staying strictly in line with the 51 rules of Bloomsbury Books.  

Aside from earning a crust, Evie has another motive in working for Bloomsbury Books. She is looking for a lost novel by a female author:

“I thought you were a scholar of obscure eighteenth-century women writers.”

Evie stared at him. “They’re not obscure. They’re neglected.”

“Sorry.” He smiled. “Obscure sounds deficient. I am corrected.” 

One thing I really enjoyed was the building of characters and relationships in this novel. The women are the main characters and they are all sketched out so well. Despite Evie being the character already known from The Jane Austen Society, the other female characters were drawn more vividly for me. I particularly felt for poor Grace, the secretary at the shop, whose private life was so drudgingly sad – a women who married and had children and then realised that the person she had married was not who she had thought. Who was unhappy in her existence as a wife but happy as a mother, and whose husband cast a shadow over her life that she couldn’t escape from. These days divorce can be a financial hardship and affect the children but I would think the societal stigma is minimal, rather than crushing and practically unthinkable as it would have been back in the late 1940s/early 1950s.

Vivien was an interesting character too, very modern in outlook but with a melancholy backstory of loss and class difference. It made me feel aggrieved that women and their contributions have been for so long overlooked.

Although the main characters are undoubtedly the females, we also get to know the male employees of the shop to an extent, and the shop’s owner. There is a very strong feminist streak running through this book. You get the feeling reading this novel that we are on the cusp of change, but knowing how slow change actually is, I found it hard to buy in to some of the events and timescales in the novel, particularly at the end of the story. I enjoyed it but I didn’t really believe it.

There are characters from real life added into the fiction too, such as authors Daphne du Maurier and Samuel Beckett and people from their social circle which was a fun touch.

I found the story extremely readable. Although in some ways the story is slow in building there are many mini interests along the way. There is one particular point in the story where I just HAD to see what was going to happen next even though it was at a tangent to the main plot. It’s lucky nobody tried to take it from me!

I would recommend Bloomsbury Girls to people who enjoy mid 20th century stories, stories about friendship and working together to overcome the odds and a big dash of feminism. I would rate it as a 4 star read.

4 stars

* I received an ebook of Bloomsbury Girls for my honest review as part of the blog tour. My thanks to the author Natalie Jenner, Publisher St. Martin's Press and the arranger of the blog tour, Austenprose.

Author Natalie Jenner

Dear readers, I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it. Warmest regards, Natalie


Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.




Book cover: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner. Cover shows three ladies walking with linked arms in a 1940s shopping area


Audio Book cover: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner. Cover shows three ladies walking with linked arms in a 1940s shopping area


I am so excited that this book is already available in audio. I have listened to some of it, and as usual, Juliet Stevenson is a wonderful narrator



Note about comments:  If you have any problems adding your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)

* * *

If you don’t want to miss any of my future posts, please subscribe 

Subscribe to Babblings of a Bookworm

If you'd like to be friends on Goodreads then please invite me - just say that you visit my blog when it asks why you'd like to be friends with me.


  1. Loved getting your thoughts on it. Grace was the one out of the three women who really pulled at my feelings, too.

    1. I felt so hard for Grace! The others were trapped by society to an extent but they wouldn't have had the misery of feeling it every single day like she would have.

  2. Replies
    1. It's a really good read. Hope you enjoy it when you read it.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ceri. I always appreciate your thorough and thoughtful reviews. I also enjoyed being in a London bookshop with the three main characters. Jenner did a fabulous job creating life in a bookshop with an engaging cast of characters. I am looking forward to her next novel.

    1. Both of Natalie Jenner's books really drew me in. Any future novels by her will be on my to be read list for sure :)


If you're not logged in to Google please leave your name in your comment or it will post as anonymous. Thanks! - Ceri