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The Personal Librarian
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The Personal Librarian
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The Instant New York Times Bestseller! A Good Morning America* Book Club Pick! “Historical fiction at its best!”*   A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian,...
The Instant New York Times Bestseller! A Good Morning America* Book Club Pick! “Historical fiction at its best!”*   A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian,...
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  • The Instant New York Times Bestseller! A Good Morning America* Book Club Pick!

    “Historical fiction at its best!”*
     
    A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling authors Marie Benedict and 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 in New York City society 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 create 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 she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover

    Chapter 1

     

    November 28, 1905

     

    Princeton, New Jersey

     

    The Old North bell tolls the hour, and I realize that I'll be late. I long to break into a sprint, my voluminous skirts lifted, my legs flying along the Princeton University pathways. But just as I gather the heavy material, I hear Mama's voice: Belle, be a lady at all times. I sigh; a lady would never run.

     

    I release the fabric and slow down as I weave through Princeton's leafy Gothic landscape, designed to look like Cambridge and Oxford. I know I must do nothing to draw any kind of extra attention. By the time I pass Blair Arch, my stride is quick but acceptable for a lady.

     

    It's been five years since I left our New York City apartment for this sleepy New Jersey college town, and the quiet is still unnerving. On the weekends, I wish I could return to the energy of New York, but the sixty cents for a train ticket is outside our family's budget. So, I send money home instead.

     

    As I duck under a crenellated tower, I moderate my pace so I won't be breathless when I arrive. You are at Princeton University. You must take extra care working at that all-male institution. Be cautious, never do anything to stand out. Even though she's nearly sixty miles away, Mama insinuates herself into my thoughts.

     

    Pushing the heavy oak door slowly to minimize its loud creak, I pad as quietly as my calfskin boots allow, across the marble foyer before I sidle into the office I share with two other librarians. The room is empty, and I exhale in relief. If sweet-natured Miss McKenna saw me arrive late, it would have been of no import, but with hood-eyed, nosy Miss Adams, I could never be certain she wouldn't mention my offense at some future time to our superior.

     

    I remove my coat and hat, careful to smooth my rebellious curly hair back into place. Tucking my somber navy skirt beneath me, I slide onto my chair. Within minutes, the office door flies open, slamming against the wood-paneled wall, and I jump. It is my only dear friend, fellow librarian, and housemate, Gertrude Hyde. As the niece of the esteemed head of purchasing for the library, Charlotte Martins, she can breach the quiet of the library's hallowed halls without fear of repercussions. An ebullient twenty-three-year-old with ginger hair and bright eyes, no one makes me laugh as she does.

     

    "Sorry to make you jump, dear Belle. I guess I owe you two apologies now, instead of the single one I'd intended. First, we abandoned you this morning, which undoubtedly led to your lateness," she says with a mischievous smile and a glance at the wall clock, "and now, I've given you a fright."

     

    "Don't be silly. The fault is mine. I should have put aside that letter to my mother and walked to campus with you and Charlotte. Miss Martins, I mean," I correct myself.

     

    Most days, Charlotte, Gertrude, and I walk together from their large family home on University Drive, where I have a room and share meals with Charlotte, Gertrude, and the rest of their family who live in the house as well. From the first, Charlotte and Gertrude have welcomed me into their home and social circles with warmth and generosity and have provided me with abundant guidance at work. I cannot imagine what my time in Princeton would have been like without them.

     

    "Belle, why are you fussing about what to call Aunt Charlotte? There's nobody in here but you and me," Gertrude mock scolds me.

     

    I don't say what I'm thinking. That Gertrude doesn't need to assess every single...

About the Author-

  • Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years' experience as a litigator. A graduate of Boston College and the Boston University School of Law, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Carnegie's Maid, The Other Einstein, and Lady Clementine. All have been translated into multiple languages. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family. 

    Victoria Christopher Murray is an acclaimed author with more than one million books in print. She has written more than twenty novels, including Stand Your Ground, an NAACP Image Award Winner for Outstanding Fiction and a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. She holds an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 19, 2021
    Benedict (The Mystery of Mrs. Christie) and Murray (Wrath) deliver a powerful take on the accomplishments of J.P. Morgan’s librarian. In 1906, Belle da Costa Greene is hired away from Princeton University to run the Pierpont Morgan Library. There, Belle adds notable works to the library’s collection and successfully navigates a high-stakes auction. As Belle’s position requires her to attend social events with New York’s elite, she is ever cognizant of maintaining the secrecy of her Black heritage, asserting that her grandmother is Portuguese. Belle’s father, Richard Greener, an equal rights advocate, was the first Black man to graduate from Harvard University, and left the family after Belle’s mother insisted on raising her as white. Though Belle enjoys her personal success as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian, which brings her significant influence in the city’s art world and rare books market, her public role increases her risk of exposure for passing as white, which she fears would cost her the job and bring an end to her family’s financial support. Benedict and Murray do a great job capturing Belle’s passion and tenacity as she carves a place for herself in a racist male-dominated society. This does fine justice to a remarkable historical figure.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Robin Miles employs her terrific performance skills to enhance this historical novel on the life of Belle da Costa Greene. Born Belle Marion Greener--daughter of activist Richard Greener, Harvard's first Black graduate--she "passes" as a white Portuguese woman while working as the personal librarian of financier J.P. Morgan. Belle is an astute observer of the wealthy class. Her shrewd intellect, charm, and, most of all, her boldness enable her to become an important figure in the male-dominated field of arts acquisitions. Miles creates vibrant portrayals of each Morgan family member, as well as a m�lange of New York and European society, affording listeners an illuminating picture of the opulence, prejudices, and restraints of this insular social milieu. M.J. � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine

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