The story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation.
Thank you, Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray for writing this book. I’ve been waiting for a story that would keep me engaged till the end and finally, after a long and arduous search, I’ve found it! Writing a historical fiction about lesser-known real-life-characters is a challenging task on its own, and to make it engaging and realistic to the reader is another level altogether. But this dynamic duo did it, so kudos to them! ... I loved how the authors were able to combine history with fiction so seamlessly, making the whole story come alive. It kept me intrigued, fascinated, and mesmerised throughout ... an immersive, well-told, and thoroughly researched historical fiction about a remarkable personal librarian ... Definitely a must-read, especially for fans of historical fiction!
The story of how Greene grows into one of the savviest, most knowledgeable patrons of the arts (despite the fact that the objects she acquires are always for someone else) would be a page-turner even if the only challenge Greene faced lay in being a woman of the early 1900s holding such an important position ... an extraordinary tale ... With careful brushstrokes, Benedict and Murray intermittently draw the reader back in time to reveal Greene’s younger years ... As is required for her to successfully infiltrate spaces the rest of the world conspires to keep her from, she is sharp and shielding, hiding much from even such avid researchers as Benedict and Murray—and thus, their readers. Greene lived with joys and losses. The readers experience them, understanding how her life’s path liberated and veiled her, how it provided the perfect cocktail to fuel bold risks, and the cover to duck under at the same time ... The story of Belle da Costa Greene is timely, universal, and enduring.
Every element of this blockbuster historical novel is compelling and revelatory, beginning with the bedazzling protagonist based with awestruck care on Belle da Costa Greene ... a novel of enthralling drama, humor, sensuality, and insight. Belle’s abiding belief in the radiance of books and art; her passionate and tragic relationship with renowned art historian Bernard Berenson, who is also hiding his true identity; and her longing for her father, Richard Greener, the first Black man to graduate from Harvard, deepen this resounding tale of a brilliant and resilient woman defying sexism, classism, and racism during the brutality of Jim Crow. Benedict and Murray do splendidly right by Belle in this captivating and profoundly enlightening portrayal.