Author: Alexandra Lapierre
Published by: Europa Editions on Jun. 23, 2022
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Publishers Group Canada
Book Rating: 8.5/10
Based on the true story of Belle da Costa Greene, a woman who defied all odds to carve out a destiny of her own choosing, this is a richly imagined novel bursting with atmosphere, lush period detail, and many unforgettable characters.
New York in the 1900s. A young girl fascinated by rare books defies all odds and becomes the director of one of the country’s most prestigious private libraries. It belongs to the magnate J.P. Morgan, darling of the international aristocracy and one of the city’s richest men.
Flamboyant, brilliant, beautiful, Belle is among New York society’s most sought after intellectuals. She also hides a secret. Although she looks white, she is African American, the daughter of a famous black activist who sees her desire to hide her origins as the consummate betrayal. Torn between history’s ineluctable imperatives and the freedom to belong to the society of her choosing, Belle’s drama, which plays out in a violently racist America, is one that resonates forcefully, and illuminatingly even today.
The fruit of years of research and interviews, Alexandra Lapierre’s magnificent novel recounts the struggles, victories, and heartbreaks of a woman who is free, astonishingly determined, daring, and fully, exuberantly alive.
Rich, captivating, and immersive!
Belle Greene is a beautifully written, fascinating interpretation that sweeps you away to New York between 1898 and the mid-1900s and into the life of Belle Greene from the abandonment of the family by her father, the first African American to graduate from Harvard, the decision of the family due to their light skin tone to identify as white, befriending Junius Spencer Morgan while working at the Princeton library, to her illustrious career curating J. P. Morgan’s personal library.
The prose is eloquent and expressive. The characters are hardworking, independent, and determined. And the plot is an absorbing tale of life, loss, love, friendship, familial drama, support, passion, courage, racism, affluence, and the ins and outs of obtaining and cataloguing book collections in the early 1900s.
Overall, Belle Greene is a well-written, compelling, exceptionally researched story by Lapierre that incorporates an engaging mix of real-life historical figures, insightful information, and plausible fiction into a comprehensive tale about the life and brilliant accomplishments of Belle de Costa Greene, one of the most famous librarians of all time.
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Thank you to PGC Books for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.