“A love letter to bookstores and libraries.”
—The Boston Globe
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.
A PopSugar Much-Anticipated 2022 Novel ∙ A BookTrib Top Ten Historical Fiction Book of Spring ∙ A SheReads’ Best Literary Historical Fiction Coming in 2022 ∙ A Reader’s Digest’s Best Books for Women Written by Female Authors ∙ A BookBub Best Historical Fiction Book of 2022
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.
Maher (The Girl in White Gloves) offers an alluring look at the history of Paris's Shakespeare and Company bookstore. American writer Sylvia Beach is living in Paris in 1917 when she becomes enamored with bookseller Adrienne Monnier. Sylvia's passion for books outweighs her passion for writing, and with money provided by her mother, she opens her own shop. As Adrienne and Sylvia embark on a romance, they become immersed in the literary world of Paris, spending time with Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. After Joyce's novel Ulysses is banned in the U.S., Sylvia takes on the task of publishing it. The printing costs strain her finances, and Joyce keeps revising the work, but as the tide turns a decade later, it proves a sound investment. Maher's portrayal of Sylvia ably capitalizes on the historical figure's singular life, highlighting how the bookseller and publisher embraced the progressive literature of the time and established a loving partnership with Adrienne that would not have been accepted in the U.S. This succeeds at carrying the flame for the lost generation.