by: Marie Benedict
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.
Helen says: 🤓🤓🤓 (that’s rather generous)
After devouring The Vanishing Half, this true story of an African American woman passing for white in the early 20th century piqued my interest. Honestly, I expected a lot more. It was dull and overrated – a remarkable woman, but not much to the story.
Holly says: 🤓🤓1/2
I really did not enjoy reading this book, and could not wait for it to be over. If I had to sum it up in one word – boring. I started listening to this book on Audible, because after reading Great Circle, my eyes were tired, but the Audible version was terrible, so after 20 chapters, I switched to the “book in hand” version – alas, no better. I kept waiting for something to happen, it didn’t. All the male characters were pompous and lamebrained, and that was totally annoying. If you want to read a much better book about a similar topic, try The Vanishing Half.