Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner is a sequel to her debut The Jane Austen Society. Like in her debut novel, Jenner has chosen a theme with books and real-life authors from the past. However, in Bloomsbury Girls, Jenner has taken a step forward to address more complicated issues such as inequality of employment opportunities for women, racism, and sexual orientation. Having set her story at a time England is rebuilding itself after the second world war, Jenner also addresses the general social issues of a struggling nation.
What I liked the most about the novel are the three “Bloomsbury girls”. Jenner brings in one sassy woman and two quietly strong women to spice up her story. We meet Evie Stone from The Jane Austen Society, as one of the Bloomsbury girls, who is recently graduated from Cambridge. As the title suggests, the story is centered around the three girls (actually two are ladies, but Jenner prefers to refer otherwise) who are employed in a male-dominated and male-ruled Bloomsbury bookshop. They are just “shop girls” with no promotion to higher positions. Through their stories, Jenner shows the discrimination women face when it comes to employment and pay. But through their story, Jenner also shows how women are ready to turn back the table to get on equal footing with men.
It was an interesting story altogether. And I liked the way the story turned out at the end. There were moments that were too good to be true, but they added sparkle to the story. I also liked the fact that Jenner hasn’t used overly snobbish male characters. The ones in the story, although very conservative, were still likable. I think Jenner has rightly captured the common characteristics of men at the time the story is set.
Bloomsbury Girls is a vast improvement from her debut novel. Although introduced as a sequel to The Jane Austen Society, this novel is a standalone on its own. And a better outcome I should say. Natalie Jenner is certainly one I’ll keep my eyes out for.