Monday, April 29, 2024

Miss Morgan's Book Brigade by Janet Skeslien Charles


Fans of The Paris Library will be thrilled by another installment of historical fiction from Janet Skeslien Charles. Set during the World War I, Miss Morgan's Book Brigade follows the work of the American Committee for Devastated France (CARD after the French title for the group). Jessie Carson was one of those who travelled to France. She was working at the New York Public Library under a very unpleasant boss and so the leave of absence brought a welcome respite from tensions at work. She arrived in France with grand ideas of restoring the library and bringing books to those who were hit the hardest. As she slowly got to know the families in the area, she won them over by offering children's story hour. Families were starved for books as most of theirs had been destroyed by invading forces and there was no money for such luxuries any longer. Jessie was instrumental in making over old ambulances to create bookmobile and she traveled the surrounding areas bring books and even more importantly hope and a sense of normalcy that so many were missing.

In a parallel storyline, Wendy Peterson works at the New York Public Librarian in 1987 scanning archived documents. She stumbles across stories about the CARDs and becomes intrigued to learn more. As an aspiring writer, she smells the making of a great story and sneakily reads while working. As she learns more about the CARDs and their courage and bravery, she finds models to follow in her own life. 

The book is a well researched project that brings to light a little known effort in WWI. It was very inspiring to hear of how the heiress Anne Morgan used her wealth for such a noble cause. CARDs helped with more than one evacuation, provided support and through Jessie Carson, also provided access to books that offered a lifeline during one of the darkest times in French history.

Jessie went on to promote children's libraries within other French cities and trained other women to be librarians. It was an excellent look at the resourcefulness of women in WWI and the sacrifices they made as well. I appreciated that the author had extensive end notes with more information about the historical figures and information on people she had based other characters on. 

Note: There were scenes in both story lines that I would consider R-rated. I feel the book would have been even better without those details. Because of this, I would recommend this title for adults. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Miss Morgan's Book Brigade through NetGalley and a print copy through the publisher, Atria Books, for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received. 

No comments:

Come Again, Pelican by Don Freeman

Don Freeman, creator of the beloved Corduroy books, first published Come Again, Pelican in 1961 and it has been re-released May 2024. Seein...