Second Tuesday Book Club will meet in person from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, January 10, in the program room at Schimelpfenig Library to begin our new year of reading. We’ll discuss the novel The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. We will continue to observe social distancing this winter, with face coverings optional. Please email Cathe Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments. See you at Schimelpfenig Library soon!
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
He nods, sweeps into the center of the room, and pivots back toward me, staring at me again with his sharp eyes. A little unnerved, I turn away from his gaze and focus my attention on the walnut-lined two-story chamber. Nine exquisite Renaissance-style paintings are set into a gilded stucco ceiling. An Italianate stone fireplace presides over the enormous room.
“This is my office?” The question slips out, and I wish I could swallow back the words. The audacious librarian I presented to him at my interview would not be surprised by the bestowal of this office.
A grin appears on his face… “Do you think it will be acceptable?”
I regain command of myself. “Mr Morgan, I believe this will be the perfect base from which to launch the inimitable Pierpont Morgan Library.“
The Personal Librarian was a New York Times bestseller and a Good Morning America Book Club selection. It also appeared on the Indie Next list of the American Booksellers Association.
The Pierpont Morgan Library is now called The Morgan Library and Museum, and is located at 225 Madison Avenue in New York City. Visit its website to see photographs and details about an exhibition called Belle da Costa Greene and the Women of the Morgan, which continues through this month. A major exhibition on Ms. Greene is planned for 2024, the centenary of the Morgan Library as a public institution.
Writing in Booklist, reviewer Donna Seaman says, “Every element of this blockbuster historical novel is compelling and revelatory. [This is a] novel of enthralling drama, humor, sensuality, and insight, a tale of a brilliant and resilient woman defying sexism, classism, and racism. Benedict and Murray do splendidly right by Belle in this captivating and profoundly enlightening portrayal.”
From Alice Cary in Bookpage come these comments: “Marie Benedict (who is white) and Victoria Christopher Murray (who is Black) do an admirable job of trying to imagine whether her achievements were worth the sacrifices. Despite the fact that Belle burned her personal papers before she died, no doubt to protect her secret, the authors succeed in bringing her elusive, charismatic personality to life, highlighting her attention-grabbing style, her witty quips and her rich, complicated relationship with Morgan … There is much to enjoy in The Personal Librarian, as well as much to consider.”
Kirkus‘ review was mixed, calling the book’s dialogue “stilted” and the story “strangely muted,” adding that “Belle’s mask of competence and confidence, so ably depicted, distances readers from her internal clashes, just as her veneer must have deterred close inquiry in real life.”
Marie Benedict (Heather Benedict Terrell) is a lawyer with years of litigation expertise who has written a series of thematically linked historical novels about “the most important, complex and fascinating women of history and bring them into the light of present-day where we can finally perceive the breadth of their contributions as well as the insights they bring to modern-day issues.” A graduate of Boston College and the Boston University School of Law, she grew up in Pittsburgh, where she now lives with her family. Her newest novel, The Mitford Sisters, will be released early in 2023.
Victoria Christopher Murray is a New York native who began writing inspirational fiction more than twenty years ago, and is best known for more than thirty contemporary novels. She has received a number of literary awards, including an NAACP Image Award and the Phyllis Wheatley Trailblazer Award. She holds degrees from Hampton University and New York University, and now lives in Washington, D. C.
The authors appeared together at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D. C. in July at a presentation/signing for The Personal Librarian. The link to their discussion is here.
Second Tuesday Book Club will meet in person from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, January 10, in the program room at Schimelpfenig Library. We’ll discuss the novel The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray.