The story opens in Paris in 1917. Sylvia Beach, an American young woman wants to do something of importance. After meeting Adrienne Monnier, the woman who would become a central and important person in her life, she opens the first American bookstore in Paris. Shakespeare and Co. quickly became a meeting and gathering place for many of the expatriates living in Paris. It could be said that James Joyce's controversial book, Ulysses, shaped her future. She became the first publisher of the book which was something she had never imagined for herself.
The author skillfully brings to life the literary and cultural scene of Paris in the 1920s and '30s. The narrative is populated with the luminaries of the time: Hemingway, Joyce, Pound, Stein, just to name a few. It is easy to imagine lively conversations and the exchange of ideas. Publishing the book was no small feat and it came with personal costs, but her commitment prevailed.
Even though this is a work of historical fiction, it reads like a biography of a real woman who holds a notable place in literary history. I found the Author's Note to be interesting as it gives more information about this remarkable woman. Highly recommended.
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.