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The Paris Bookseller

by Kerri Maher

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher X
The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher
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  • Judith M. (Granville, OH)
    The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher
    The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher is a fictional account of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore and lending library (1919-1941) owned by Sylvia Beach that became the gathering spot for the artists residing in Paris between the World Wars – among them, James Joyce, Ernest Hemmingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and T.S. Elliot. The themes of the book include love, relationships, censorship, and art.
    At the beginning of the book I was ambivalent about the writing. For example, the beauty of Adrienne asking "Did you find...your heart's desire?" compared with the crudeness of "made Sylvia sweat in her sheets." But I found that both the beauty and crudeness reflected the recurring themes of censorship and art.
    Much of the book was about the relationships between Beach and James Joyce, between Beach and her love Adrienne, and between art and censorship. The lawyer in the United States defended Joyce's Ulysses in the courts on the basis that the book was so ugly it couldn't corrupt instead of the "grounds of truth and beauty." Ulysses was declared pornography and banned in the United States meaning Joyce couldn't find a publisher, so Sylvia became the publisher. "Censorship is not commensurate with democracy or art."
    Similar to today, the politicians are attempting to ban Beloved in schools and to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory, even though their interpretation is ignorant. Before WWII, "The rulers in America wanted to outlaw anything that offended its sense of decorum. Book, play, film, organization, activity, or person was in danger of being silenced. The very suppression created more of what they feared - more anarchism and Marxism and protests and unrest and it was books like Ulysses that sought to open minds rather than slam them shut."
    I enjoyed the middle part of the book - the publication of Ulysses- more than the beginning or the ending. For further reading, Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach is the autobiography that is parallel to The Paris Bookseller.
  • Becky H. (Chicago, IL)
    interesting, but a bit long
    I was half way through this book before I realized it is essentially an accurate and lengthy biography of Sylvia Beach and her English language bookshop. Beach and her Paris shop, "Shakespeare and Company", hosted many of the writers and thinkers of the early half of the 20th century. She came to fame with her publication of James Joyce's Ulysses when no one else would publish it. In fact, America had declared it pornography and prevented it from being published or sold in the US. The novel also covers her relationship with Adrienne Monnier and Monnier's French language bookshop. Both women were sponsors of American, French and British writers.

    The novel is well researched and well written but gets bogged down in the details. Joyce, Ulysses, Hemingway and Pound by themselves along with Beach could have made a fascinating tale that moved more quickly and kept the reader's interest from flagging. Still, the history alone makes the book worth reading. Personally, I could have done with a hundred fewer pages.
  • Mary Jane D. (Arlington Heights, IL)
    The Paris Bookseller
    I was assigned to read James Joyce's ULYSSES for a literary class in college and I was not a fan. After reading THE PARIS BOOKSELLER I now have a better understanding of the controversy surrounding its authorship and publication.

    The book is very well researched and true to the facts of the relationship between Sylvia Beach and James Joyce and the eventual publication of the book. A number of famous Lost Generation literary figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald are part of the story and it was interesting to find out more about their personal lives.

    I found the book too long and wordy for my taste. It did not hold my interest but I persisted and read it to the end.I would think bibliophiles and literary minded readers would find it more interesting.
  • kathygeorge
    Much information that was new to me
    The good news is that I did finish the book. The other news is that the first chapter was so full of long, adjective-peppered sentences that I initially despaired of doing so.

    Fortunately, the storytelling improved. I was totally unfamiliar with the life of Sylvia Beach and her contribution to the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses. I am glad to have learned about this episode in literary history.
  • Susan G. (Oakley, UT)
    The Paris Bookseller
    "The Paris Bookseller" is a good choice for a long plane ride. The story is intriguing, the Paris landmarks familiar and all in all an easy, if not compelling, read.


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