ARC Review | ‘The Radcliffe Ladies’ Reading Club’ by Julia Bryan Thomas

Radcliffe Ladies' Reading Club

★★★★☆

The Radcliffe Ladies’ Reading Club by Julia Bryan Thomas
Expected publication date: June 6, 2023
by Sourcebooks Landmark
Genres: Historical fiction, adult fiction, books about books
Women weren’t China dolls for men to pamper and care for with caveat that they never speak their minds. They were living, breathing human beings with thoughts and feelings and emotions that were meant to be expressed however they chose to do it.

Synopsis

Never underestimate the power of a woman with a shop full of books. Massachusetts, 1954. With bags packed alongside her heavy heart, Alice Campbell escaped halfway across the country and found herself in front of a derelict building tucked among the cobblestone streets of Cambridge. She turns it into the enchanting bookshop of her dreams, knowing firsthand the power of books to comfort the broken-hearted. The Cambridge Bookshop soon becomes a haven for Tess, Caroline, Evie, and Merritt, who are all navigating the struggles of being newly independent college women in a world that seems to want to keep them in the kitchen. But when a member of the group finds herself shattered, everything they know about themselves will be called into question.

My Thoughts

For the longest time, I thought all historical fiction books were about WWII. What if I’m just not interested in reading fictional stories about the Second World War? While I did recently come to the realization that historical fiction novels exist outside of that period, it’s worth noting that titles dedicated to WWII still dominate the genre. All the Light We Cannot SeeThe Nightingale, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and so many others. All beloved books commonly recommended among readers, all historical fiction, all about WWII. What if I don’t want to read about World War II?!

Then, this winter, something magical happened. A publicist reached out to me offering an advanced copy of Julia Bryan Thomas’s upcoming novel The Radcliffe Ladies’ Reading Club. Set at Radcliffe College in 1950s Massachusetts, this classifies the novel in the historical fiction genre. But for once I got through reading the entire premise before mentally discarding it as, “Ugh, great, more World War II.” The premise also reminded me a bit of the film Mona Lisa Smile, so I decided to give it a shot. And it singlehandedly convinced me that I should try seeking out more historical fiction that genuinely interests me. The writing style did leave a bit to be desired, but I really enjoyed the characters’ dynamic and the storyline went in places I wasn’t expecting, so if you are one for historical fiction, keep an eye out for this one this summer.

They were peculiar creatures, college girls. They could seem so grownup at times and like adolescents at others, trapped between the constrictive rules of their childhoods and the freedom of being an adult.

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