I love historical fiction steeped in history, so how could I resist, The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher. The author shares a peek into the life of American Sylvia Beach, who opened a bookstore/lending library called Shakespeare and Company on a quiet street in Paris. Famous authors, lovers and one woman’s efforts to see a banned book published. Grab a cuppa and see why book lovers need to add this to their bookshelf.
by Kerri Maher
Genres: Historical Fiction
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Discover the dramatic story of how a humble bookseller fought against incredible odds to bring one of the most important books of the 20th century to the world in this new novel from the author of The Girl in the White Gloves.
When bookish young American Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company on a quiet street in Paris in 1919, she has no idea that she and her new bookstore will change the course of literature itself.
Shakespeare and Company is more than a bookstore and lending library: Many of the most prominent writers of the Lost Generation, like Ernest Hemingway, consider it a second home. It's where some of the most important literary friendships of the twentieth century are forged--none more so than the one between Irish writer James Joyce and Sylvia herself. When Joyce's controversial novel Ulysses is banned, Beach takes a massive risk and publishes it under the auspices of Shakespeare and Company.
But the success and notoriety of publishing the most infamous and influential book of the century comes with steep costs. The future of her beloved store itself is threatened when Ulysses' success brings other publishers to woo Joyce away. Her most cherished relationships are put to the test as Paris is plunged deeper into the Depression and many expatriate friends return to America. As she faces painful personal and financial crises, Sylvia--a woman who has made it her mission to honor the life-changing impact of books--must decide what Shakespeare and Company truly means to her.
I love reading about the 1920s and was delighted to learn more about the famous bookshop in Paris known as Shakespeare and Company and the American Woman behind it all. Sylvia Beach traveled to Paris with her sister and ended up staying. There she opened the first American bookstore and lending library. Oh, to have been a patron with so many brilliant authors visiting. I would have loved to have taken afternoon tea there and chatted with them or attended one of their readings.
Maher does a delightful job of bringing Sylvia, Joyce, Hemingway, Pound, Stein and others to life. The beginning shares her meeting with Parisian bookstore owner Adrienne Monnier, who opens the door for her.
Paris was more liberal than America regarding same-sex couples and we explore Sylvia’s love life, person struggles and the losses alongside her successes and setbacks within the book world.
The story focuses on Sylvia’s attempts to protect Ulysses, which was originally banned in the United States. It gave us a look at her relationship with Joyce and her passion for great works. The story is fairly accurate historically, and any differences were noted in the author’s note. Taking on Ulysses was not an effortless task, and I bulked at what she went through personally and financially. The author did a wonderful job of conveying her struggles and successes. Sylvia Beach was a remarkable woman and influencer in her time.
The author’s interpretation of these historical figures and the timeline she choose to share felt authentic and allowed me to feel as if I was there. Sylvia was passionate, plagued with self-doubt, and loved the written word. She didn’t like to give speeches, but loved gatherings for chats. The story touches on some losses Sylvia endured but not all since it ends on a high note. We get to experience her friendships with authors, the love of her life and her family back in the states. I implore you to read all the author’s note to learn about the rest of her life.
I loved all the historical tidbits and comings and goings of the literary authors mentioned. It was considerably less expensive to live abroad and with prohibition and censorship, America authors flocked to Paris during the 1920s to write. Maher brought them to life from Hemingway’s feelings of inadequacy to Pounds desire to repair things in the bookstore.
I closed the book feeling as if I got to know Sylvia Beach, Adrienne and the authors they supported. The author’s note has me wanted to dive into more works about her and the authors mentioned. I also have a craving to travel to Paris and see the street her shop was on before visiting the new Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, which displays info about her.
Fans of historical fiction, the 1920s and book lovers far and wide will delight in this tale that transports you.
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Laura@Reading Books Again
I wondered whether this would be a good book because the author is new to me. Your review has convinced me to buy it.
What a beautiful review.
how does one banned books to be published? shouldn’t it be published before it was banned?
I have a nonfiction book about Beach and Shakespeare and Co coming up on my reading list. This sounds wonderful and I’m adding it to my TBR.
Oh, I’ve seen this book around and have been wondering about it. What a nice review! Thanks.
claire @ clairefy
Glad that you enjoyed this one! I also enjoy historical fiction books and reading about the 1920s. I love French but have yet to read any books that are actually set in France — may pick this one up soon! 🙂
claire @ clairefy
Excellent review Kimberly. This sounds like a great story bringing history alive.
This sounds fascinating and well written
Yes, this would be a fascinating story and I’d already heard about Shakespeare and Co.