The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

For him, I was the daughter and son he’d never had, the confidant he’d always sought, the business and art partner who’d boldly advocated for his goals, and the lover he’d dreamed about but held in abeyance. For me, he was the father I’d lost, the companion with whom I could discuss the day’s minutiae, the business mentor who’d supported me beyond my wildest dreams, and the lover for whom is longed but could never have. (p. 248)

I had to break away from my reading of Japanese literature, and books for the Nordic Finds, to complete this month’s Book Club choice: The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. I quickly found myself immersed in the story of Belle de Costa Greene, who was the extraordinary librarian for J. P. Morgan in the early 1900’s.

Her courage, strength, and intellectual ability are inspiring, as we learn of the way she gained Mr. Morgan’s complete respect. He gave her great financial allowances to bid for the books he wanted at auction.

Belle perfected the ability to “hide in plain sight,” as she sought to present herself as a White woman in a highly prejudiced society. Yet, she was not the only one with secrets. Anne, J. P. Morgan’s daughter, was involved in a “Boston marriage” with another woman.

This book is a perfect choice for Book Clubs, as it includes a myriad of topics: race, feminism, adultery, friendship, and the very powerful relationship between an extremely wealthy man who needed this extremely intelligent and brave librarian.