11 January 2022
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
Young, bookish Sylvia Beach knows there is no greater city in the world than Paris. But when she opens an English-language bookshop on the bohemian Left Bank, Sylvia can't yet know she is making history.
Many leading writers of the day, from Ernest Hemingway to Gertrude Stein, consider Shakespeare and Company a second home. Here some of the most profound literary friendships blossom - and none more so than between James Joyce and Sylvia herself.
When Joyce's controversial novel Ulysses is banned, Sylvia determines to publish it through Shakespeare and Company. But the success and notoriety of publishing the most infamous book of the century comes at deep personal cost as Sylvia risks ruin, reputation and her heart in the name of the life-changing power of books...
📖 My review..
Founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919, Shakespeare and Company was a Paris book shop made all the more influential for being the first to publish James Joyce's controversial novel, Ulysses in its entirety. The Paris Bookseller is the story of how the bookshop, and lending library, was formed and how Sylvia Beach rubbed shoulders with the great, and the good, of the literary world in the early part of the twentieth century,
Both interesting and absorbing this fictionalised account of Paris in the early 1920s and 30s brings to life a city which is as vibrant as it is complicated and to become an observer as Sylvia goes about setting up the book store is to sit and listen as the writers of the day linger to exchange views. The way the book shop brings each of the writers, with all their foibles and eccentricities, to life, is done with fine attention to detail.
Whilst the shop was a meeting place for the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, it was Sylvia Beach's championing of James Joyce's epic novel Ulysses which brought the store into the epicentre of Anglo-American culture. Previously banned, the first edition of Ulysses was published by Shakespeare and Company on Joyce's 40th birthday in 1922.
The Paris Bookseller is an interesting historical novel in its own right but as a bird's eye view into the way the great writers of the day shared their angst and anxieties it soon becomes a fascinating glimpse into a forgotten but vitally important era in classic twentieth century literature.
Best read with...a cup of English tea and sweet macarons..
Kerr Maher holds an MFA from Columbia University and was a writing professor for many years. She now writes full-time and lives with her daughter and dog in a leafy suburb in Boston, Massachusetts.
Twitter @kerrimaherbooks #TheParisBookseller
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