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Shakespeare and Company

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  967 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews

Sylvia Beach was intimately acquainted with the expatriate and visiting writers of the Lost Generation, a label that she never accepted. Like moths of great promise, they were drawn to her well-lighted bookstore and warm hearth on the Left Bank. Shakespeare and Company evokes the zeitgeist of an era through its revealing glimpses of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fit

Hardcover, 199 pages
Published June 1st 1980 by University of Nebraska Press (first published 1959)
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The third book read in my project to learn more about literary expatriates in 1920s and 1930s Paris, Sylvia Beach's memoir was in many ways the most enjoyable reading experience to date. Beach was an American woman who operated an English language lending library and bookstore called Shakespeare & Company on Paris' Left Bank from 1919 to 1941*. During that period, her store was a hub for expatriate writers including Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fizgerald and, most signficantly, Jame
3.5 stars. Often reads as a series of anecdotes, but it's interesting to read about Beach's relationship with Joyce from her own perspective.
Debbie Darwine
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Noël
If I could transport to any period of history, Paris in the 1920s would probably be my first choice. Hanging out in cafes, sipping wine late into the night and discussing the latest works of Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gide--who are also your neighbors, and, if you're very lucky, your acquaintances or friends--would be amazing. Sylvia Beach lived that dream life. Sylvia was an American who moved to Paris and opened a bookshop that specialized in American works. Her store was frequented by all ...more
Mark Victor Young
This was half of a great book, so I'll give the first half four stars and the latter half two stars. I loved the story of Sylvia and her unlikely bookshop and how she came to publish James Joyce's Ulysses. That was great, as were the stories of the other writers and musicians who frequented Shakespeare and Company in the early twenties. The stories of Joyce and his family were beautiful and helped me understand the man much better.

At a certain point the memoir devolved into a series of short po
Michael Lawrence
I’m a longtime admirer of Sylvia Beach, whose story this is. When I was twenty-one I went to Paris to try my hand at writing while starving. I turned out to be rather good at the second of these. While renting an icy garret at the top of the Hotel Novelty at Odéon, I made frequent visits to the Shakespeare and Company bookshop on the quai at St-Michel. Many visitors over the years have mistaken that shop for the one that coined the name, but the original Shakespeare and Company – a lending libra ...more
This is a unique, behind-the-scenes look at creative people in an intensely creative time and place.

It was the period between the wars.

“The news of my bookshop, to my surprise, soon spread all over the United States, and it was the first thing the pilgrims looked up in Paris. They were all customers at the Shakespeare and Company, which many of them looked upon as their club.”

I didn’t realize that, more than anything else, this book is about James Joyce. Beach not only published Ulysses, but s
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Sylvia Beach's father, the Reverend Sylvester Woodbridge Beach, moved to Montparnasse, Paris, the 14-year-old Sylvia Beach was in her element. She met Carlotta Welles, who became a lifelong friend, and she was most disappointed when her father returned to Princeton. She had developed a veritable passion for France and was delighted that the family returned regularly for holidays.

When she was old enough Sylvia went to Spain, and spent a few months there before moving on to Paris where she 'w
Barnaby Thieme
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, memoirs
This touching memoir of Beach's years as proprietress of the infamous Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris deserves a place of honor on the bookshelf next to Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast." Any fan of early 20th Century literature and art will be delighted by her intimate reminiscences of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Valéry, Fitzgerald, and especially James Joyce. Her long years' friendship with the latter author and her indefatigable labors on his behalf makes up about a half of this short ...more
Jason Robinson
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a highly enjoyable historical memoir and interesting material for anyone interested in "The Lost Generation" in Paris in the 1920's. Sylvia Beach, the proprietor, created a publishing house (she originally published the classic ULYSSES) and intellectual hub for expat. writers in Paris- think Joyce, Hemingway, Pound, Fitzgerald, etc... Great reading if you are interested in this generation of literature or just in 20th Century Paris in general.
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every once in a great while I stumble upon a book I've never heard of and feel as though I've discovered treasure. This is such a book. Though I had heard of Sylvia Beach and her famous book shop/lending library, her memoir "Shakespeare & Company" was unknown to me. In an easy, conversational style, Beach gives the history of her shop and observational portraits of the various artists who treated her establishment as a salon of sorts. These artists included Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T. S. E ...more
Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)
Ebook - read via Open Library here.

Sylvia Beach and her bookstore Shakespeare and Company are legendary now - but were also quickly popular in her time, as the bookshop became a meeting place for visitors to stop in and perhaps use its address to forward their mail. It was as much a club and a writers' meeting place as it was a bookstore and lending library.

Since Beach was so immersed in the society of authors, poets, and other famous folk, and often doesn't give you much more than their names a
Ray Else
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked most of all Sylvia's voice and her phrasing, from so many years ago, this American expat who took Paris and literature to heart long before I did. And her memories of Joyce and Hemingway as if happened yesterday.
Michele Cacano
This book gets an extra star just for the first-hand accounts of so many great writers and artists. Sylvia Beach was an American bibliophile who opened an English-language bookstore in Paris, which became the literary headquarters for the Lost Generation and every struggling creative soul in France. She wrote this book nearly two decades after the close of her iconic bookstore (Shakespeare and Company 1919-1941).

This memoir gives such personal details and clear memories of Paris in the 1920s an
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: lucybrown
When I read this a while back, I felt like a total dunderhead. I was chagrined at how little I know about American authors of this time period. Oh sure, I know Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. I've never read Ulyseses but I certainly know who Joyce was and a bit about him. Yet there are so many names that are utterly new to me.

I found myself wishing for a bit more personal detail, but that's just me-- I read Ann Landers and Dear Abby because I like the juicy stuff. Were this written today, I know it w
Mit Sicherheit zeichnet Sylvia Beach ein sehr schmeichelhaftes, vielleicht manchmal allzu schmeichelhaftes Bild der vielen Berühmtheiten, die in ihrer Buchhandlung ein und ausgingen. Man vergleiche nur das Buch "Paris Was a Woman: Portraits from the Left Bank", in dem alle Liebschaften dieses Zirkels genüsslich ausgebreitet werden. Aber das Buch ist sehr amüsant geschrieben und bringt einem viele Autoren und deren Werk nahe: Da geht es um den Baby badenden Hemingway; Joyce, der sich unfreiwillig ...more
Apr 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of A Moveable Feast
Shelves: biography-memoir
A most interesting book by a most interesting woman. Sylvia Beach opened the Shakespeare and Company bookstore (and lending library) in 1919 in Paris providing English-language books to American and British ex-pats and European readers. She introduced many to the new writers coming out of the U.S. in the 1920s. Perhaps her most significant accomplishment was being the publisher of "Ulysses" by James Joyce after it had been banned in the England and the U.S. She nurtured Joyce for years and he us ...more
This is a delightful book written by Sylvia Beach about her experiences running her English language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris. It was the height of the "Lost Generation" expatriate community there and she had close relationships with James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, André Gide, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and countless others. The book is written in a chatty, almost letter-writing style and, just occasionally, gets a little tedious because ...more
Sylvia Beach started Shakespeare and Company which I will hopefully one day visit and spend the night in, as long as writing scientific papers counts as being a writer.

The atmosphere of the time in Paris is better captured in A Moveable Feast but Sylvia Beach saw everything first hand and was influential in a lot of it, like actually publishing Ulysses. Her prose is fairly dry and matter of fact, very much the practical American navigating a very worldly life. Her family traveled a lot because
This is Beach's memoir of her long time in Paris as bookseller, publisher, and literary den mother; she was friends with writers from Andre Gide to Ernest Hemingway and published Ulysses when no other publisher would touch it. I liked it a lot, but I can see the flaws in it. Beach's focus is always on others, especially Joyce, and I wanted more of her personal history and of her more candid opinions. Fortunately, I had to hand Noel Riley Fitch's excellent Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation(hig ...more
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book after visiting the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore in Paris. The bookstore is a true used bookstore with floor to ceiling books tumbling everywhere and old chairs about to sit and read.

This was a gathering place in the 20's for those desiring books written in English. It was also a gathering place for the writers of the time and even a few artists. Sylvia Beach was very involved in helping James Joyce get his Ulysses published. His book was banned in the America and secretly
Very much a memoir that reads in the same way that someone tells you a story; at times it flip flops all over the place, some bits of the story are repeated a couple of times and it isn't entirely chronological. She is quite the name-dropper, but I guess that's the point of reading this book. The majority of the book deals with the author's relationship with James Joyce and the ups and downs of publishing his book Ulysses.
Libro bello indubbiamente, ha il solo difetto di essere effettivamente un diario solo quando si parla di Joyce e di Hemgway... Qualche accortezza per qualche poeta, magari francese, ma tutto il resto arriva e se ne va quasi solo per essere inserito nella lista di quelli che "di là erano passati".
Nov 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ex-pats, bio-memoir
i think i love this mostly because of the scene at the end when hemingway liberates the rue de l'odeon on a tank at the end of WWI. no idea if it actually happened, but it's good storytelling in a memoir.
American-born Beach opened a lending library/bookstore in Paris which would become a magnet for expatriates (and plenty of French) in the 1920s and 1930s. She also published Joyce’s “Ulysses” when no one would would, and her stories of Joyce reveal some of the man behind the author. Beach’s memoir also regales us with tales of almost every famous author and musician, and plenty of others whose names I did not recognize, who frequented or just dropped by her shop. What an amazingly interesting li ...more
An excellent glimpse into then Parisian Literary scene. I loved Sylvia’s accounts of the famous writers of the time and the heroic accounts of Hem’s liberation of the book shop!
Paul Combs
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Ninety-five years ago, American Sylvia Beach opened the now-famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, and her memoir of the same name chronicles the roughly 25 years that her shop was the center of the literary world.

Before delving into the particulars of this wonderful book, it is probably best to clear up any confusion over the store itself. There is still a Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, but it is not the store Sylvia Beach founded. Rather, it one that another expatriate
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fun and interesting read about the bookshop that was the hub around which the great writers of the 20s revolved.
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sylvia Beach turns up in many books about 1920s Paris, including A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. She has a role in the new mystery by Laurie R. King, The Bones of Paris, which takes place in Paris in 1929. It was the latter book that inspired me to read the two previous books plus Shakespeare and Company by Beach herself. It was an extraordinary time and place in the history of art and literature, and I was fascinated by how it was ...more
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sylvia Beach ist die Tochter eines presbyterianischen Pastors und wird in Baltimore geboren. Sie ist gerade 14 Jahre alt, als ihr Vater nach Paris geschickt wird, um die Students Atelier Reunions zu betreuen. So kommt sie das erste Mal mit Paris in Kontakt und lebt für eine Zeit lang mit ihrer Familie dort. Jahre später lebt Sylvia wieder in Amerika, in Princeton. Jedoch hat die Stadt Paris sie nie wirklich los gelassen, so geht sie 1917 wieder zurück nach Paris. Sylvia hegte großes Interesse an ...more
Oct 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of Shakespeare and Company, Sylvia Beach, and the Lost Generation has fascinated me for several years. I was anxious to get my hands on this book and read a more intimate and first hand account of it all. This book was not quite what I expected.

The first half is wonderful. You get a great glimpse into Sylvia's decision to open the store/lending library and how she went about it. We see her develop friendships with legendary writers that it almost becomes a "James Joyce and Ernest Hemin
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  • Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties
  • Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s
  • Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939
  • Memoirs of Montparnasse
  • Paris Was a Woman: Portraits from the Left Bank
  • That Summer in Paris
  • Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company
  • Paris France
  • Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends
  • Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.
  • Chasing Sylvia Beach
  • Hemingway: The Paris Years
  • Paris: The Biography of a City
  • Women of the Left Bank
  • Wild Heart: A Life: Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris
  • Bohemian Paris: Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse and the Birth of Modern Art
  • Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy: A Lost Generation Love Story
  • For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus
Born Nancy Woodbridge Beach
More about Sylvia Beach...