Book Review: The Personal Librarian By Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray


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.


I never realised this was a true story until the end.

This novel is based on an extraordinary woman. Belle da Costa Greene, art curator and librarian to J.P. Morgan in the early 1900s. Set in NYC. This woman was one of a kind.

Although she was a mixed race, you have to remember the times they were living in. And she was lucky as her skin tone let her pass as white.

In order to survive and become successful she had to become white. Belle provides for her long list of family members, yet she is a well-grown adult, seriously? That is the annoying bit that got to me as they all have careers too so why is it only her income, they desire the most? Stop being leeches in my opinion and earn more if you want more.

I really enjoyed that this novel was very well researched and learning about Belle’s life. I did not agree with her choice of men though. And her ‘boss’ that she seen as both as a father figure yet do YOU flirt with your father? A little weird.

It was an interesting read overall.

4/5 Stars

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