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Book summary and reviews of The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher

The Paris Bookseller

by Kerri Maher

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  • Published:
  • Jan 2022
    336 pages
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About this book

Book Summary

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 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 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.

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Media Reviews

"Recommend to fans of Paula McLean's The Paris Wife and anyone who enjoyed Hemingway's A Moveable Feast." - Booklist (starred review)

"Maher (The Girl in White Gloves) offers an alluring look at the history of Paris's Shakespeare and Company bookstore." - Publishers Weekly

"A fine tribute to a tireless and selfless champion of literary genius." - Kirkus Reviews

"A beautiful ode to Sylvia Beach, the renowned Shakespeare and Company owner, a real-life heroine who has left her mark on us all."- Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Personal Librarian

"Midnight in Paris meets A Moveable Feast in this intimate, in-depth look at the brave and visionary woman who founded one of the world's most iconic bookstores, Shakespeare & Company, on Paris's Left Bank. Studded with appearances from the likes of James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Bookseller brings alive not only interwar Paris, but also the complicated friendship that led to the publication of Joyce's epic Ulysses and helped pave the way for Paris's enduring English-language literary legacy. If you've ever fallen in love with a bookstore, you'll love this ode to booksellers and to the power and magic of the written word." - Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars

"The Paris Bookseller is a beautifully written homage to those who keep literature alive and to the quirky inhabitants of the literary community whose work sometimes transcends their personal failings. With an open heart and vivid prose, Maher brings to life a lost age and I can't wait to see what this talented author will tackle next." —Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of The Women of Chateau Layfayette

This information about The Paris Bookseller was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Carol M Peters

Shakespeare and Company
I loved this history of all the writers who congregated in Paris from 1917-1935 and the bookstore which was their haven. I had never heard of Sylvia Beach or her bookstore Shakespeare and Company. It was so interesting to "meet" James Joyce and and his struggles to write and publish Ulysses, the young Ernest Hemmingway, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas to name a few.
The book also captures the challenges for women trying to earn a name in the publishing business, but also the successes of individuals like Sylvia Beach an unsung hero who should have received more recognition over the ensuing years. I also thought the author captured the relative freedom for same sex couples in Paris vs. other countries during this time. I would recommend to anyone interested in Paris between the two World Wars and the many authors who called Paris home. This is a very personal story of Sylvia Beach and her life in addition to the bookstore. It opens the door to a world in the past with many fascinating moments to treasure.

Arden A. (Longboat Key, FL)

1919 Paris
Shakespeare and Company was a renowned Paris bookstore established in 1919 by a woman, Sylvia Beach. It was during a time when Hemingway, Ezra Pound, James Joyce lived and wrote and frequented Sylvia's bookstore, which was an anomaly at that time, since women were not encouraged to excel outside the home, and it took great fortitude to create the phenomenon that her bookstore became. In addition, she undertook to publish one of the most controversial novels of the times, James Joyce's Ulysses.
The novel is well written, the descriptions bring the 1900s clearly into view, and the story, mostly factual and well researched, is excellently woven around the authors and the difficulties of the time. It clearly tells the story of a remarkable woman.

Pam S. (Wellesley, MA)

Paris in the 1920s and the bookshop at its center
Kerri Maher has written a fascinating novel about Sylvia Beach, the American who opened Shakespeare and Company book shop in Paris in 1919. The store became a mecca for writers who flocked to Paris in the years between the world wars. Although I knew a little about Sylvia Beach before reading this book, I was delighted to learn more about her and her store. Her role as publisher of Ulysses, the ground-breaking novel by James Joyce, and the saga of their relationship formed a significant portion of the book. I particularly enjoyed reading about the many legendary writers (Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and many more). It was a pleasure to experience the world of the "lost generation" through the perspective of Sylvia, who was at the center of it. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the period and am grateful to the author for bringing to life someone who was at the heart of it.

Dan W. (Fort Myers, FL)

The Lost Generation
Upon noticing the book title and the book cover for "The Paris Bookseller", I was hooked on this book. I have had the opportunity to visit the bookstore Shakespeare and Company in Paris several times on my trips to France. After reading this inspiring book by Kerri Maher, I long to once again visit the place that Sylvia Beach make possible for unknown, but talented, writers to create books that will live on through the ages. I found myself captivated by Kerri Maher's ability to draw the reader into a personalized way that Sylvia provided financial and moral support to some of the best "Lost Generation" authors. I think a book club would be an ideal forum to review and discuss this book! This is a book I would highly encourage any visitor to Paris to read; even those readers that might not able to actually travel to the "magical" place!

Jan, Colorado

The Paris Bookseller
It was with mixed emotions that I finished The Paris Bookseller. I could hardly stop reading it but I hated to see it end. This has been my favorite book of the year.

I had almost given up reading historical fiction because other authors had so completely and dismally strayed from the real people and real events. Kerri Maher was masterful in using the real people, real events, and the setting and then added to the story. I was not familiar with Sylvia Beach or Shakespeare and Company and I truly enjoyed learning about her influence on literature. The author brought all of the other real people to life and revealed their personalities. I also appreciated that the author told the story linearly as opposed to the popular jumping back and forth in time that many authors are employing today.

I would love to discuss this book in a book club. The characters are rich and deserve us diving into their lives and relationships. I researched some of the events while reading the book, and would like to learn more about the events depicted in the book. I will definitely recommend it to my book club after the book is published.

I think this book would appeal to people who enjoy historical fiction and literature lovers. I will watch for more Kerri Maher books in the future.

Terrie J. (Eagan, MN)

A Book for Book Lovers
This was a fun book for book lovers. Many famous authors made appearances in the midst of a great story line. The heroine of the story was a strong woman with lofty goals during a time when women weren't looked upon as successful entrepreneurs. There were surprises throughout the book which kept my interest while reading. It was well written and the descriptions made you feel like you were there. I highly recommend this book for all types of readers.

...29 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Kerri Maher Author Biography

Kerri Maher is the USA Today bestselling author of The Paris Bookseller, The Girl in White Gloves, The Kennedy Debutante, and, under the name Kerri Majors, This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and lives with her daughter and dog in a leafy suburb west of Boston, Massachusetts.

Link to Kerri Maher's Website

Name Pronunciation
Kerri Maher: MAY-er

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