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Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,732 ratings  ·  424 reviews
Wandering through Paris's Left Bank one day, poor and unemployed, Canadian reporter Jeremy Mercer ducked into a little bookstore called Shakespeare & Co. Mercer bought a book, and the staff invited him up for tea. Within weeks, he was living above the store, working for the proprietor, George Whitman, patron saint of the city's down-and-out writers, and immersing himse ...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by Picador USA (first published January 1st 2005)
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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,732 ratings  ·  424 reviews

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Mathew Paust
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
[I'm going to join the uncool kids who gave this five stars, realizing, of course, my credibility as a reviewer likely will take a huge unrecoverable hit from the cool kids who gave it fewer, for whom, I suspect, giving any book the full five stars would mark them as forgettably naive.]

After 44 years I still don't know what it was about me George Whitman didn't like, if anything. It might have been my haircut. He might have thought I was a CIA agent. I was an American on leave from the Army and
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-natl-hist
An endearing, delightfully charming personal memoir about living in one of the most famous, unique and culturally significant bookstores in the world: "Shakespeare and Company" in Paris.

Virtually everybody (maybe with the exception of the likes of Donald Trump, I guess) would have heard of this mythical bookstore located in the beguiling heart of beautiful Paris, on La Rive Gauche of the Seine River, an area historically known as one of the foremost cultural and artistic parts of the city, a nei
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: paris
I love this first line in chapter 35 --

"Within a week, Ablimit was in the hospital, the apartment was lost, Eve stopped wearing George's ring, and a man was dead."

Former journalist/ novelist Jeremy Mercer is broke and on the run. He leaves Canada, and ends up in Paris, where he takes refuge at Shakespeare & Co., the infamous bookstore known for its literary history and promise to house writers "free of charge in exchange for their work". (The list of previous writers reads like a who's who o
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
I'm glad I have finished this book; it was really beginning to irritate me! I wanted to like it, I really did - Books, Paris, what's not to love? What a shame then that what started off as a very promising look into Paris's most famous of bookstores quickly descended into one of the most self-indulgent memoirs I have ever read.

Jeremy Mercer is a Canadain journalist who after printing the name of someone he promised he wouldn't name, did a runner one Christmas to Paris and ended up spending the
Leonard Mokos
This should be a great book. I wanted it to be, like, so bad.

Its a true(ish?) account of a fellow Canuck who goes to that temple of literary Gods, the used bookstore "Shakespeare & Company", ekes out an existence on one of the numerous guest cots throughout the store, interacting with the literary hopefuls scraping by working in the store, scamming, weaselling, chiselling and sometimes writing, and the owner, famous George.

The store itself is legendary. I myself have been there, in the hear
As every book lover knows, there is something special about a bookshop, but the famous, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris is another level again. Originally founded in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, she was the first to distribute Ulysses by joyce, and counted among her friends Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway. After her death, George Whitman bought the stock and re-founded his own shop in homage to hers. Originally called Le Mistral, he renamed it Shakespeare and Company on the 400th anniversary of the ba ...more
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. I really really wanted to like this book. France + bookstores should have been a surefire way to get four stars from me. But. The author focused too much on his angsty 20-something life (a surefire way to get one star from me).

I loved learning more about George, the owner/proprietor of Shakespeare & Co., but those parts were too few and far between.
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A friend who works at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., dropped me a note last month to tell me that he had just finished reading “time was soft there.” Yes, all in lowercase. He said it was the true story of a former police-beat journalist who quits his job and flees to Paris after receiving a death threat, and he finds both refuge and a new direction in life at an iconic bookstore.

My first thought was, “Yeah, right, that sounds, uh, really boring.” So I immediately put the book on my hold l
Apr 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shakespeare and Company in Paris, in the shadow of Notre Dame, is one of the world's most famous bookshops.

The original bookshop was the haunt of many literary greats such as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, but the legendary owner, Sylvia Beach, closed it down after World War II.

George Whitman opened his bookstore in the 1950s and eventually changed its name to Shakespeare and Company and although this is the second incarnation of the store of that name, the atmosphere and biza
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Live for Humanity
Nose in a book (Kate)
Mercer combines the larger history of Shakespeare and Company with his personal tale of living at the bookshop for several months in 2000. He is a Canadian journalist who had been a successful crime reporter, but had got into trouble by naming a source and, fearing for his life, ran away to Paris, as writers are wont to do. He had almost run out of money when he visited the bookshop and was invited to one of their legendary Sunday tea parties. There, he learned that George Whitman invited writer ...more
Kelvin Hayes
Aug 11, 2012 rated it liked it
For me, this was a little surreal in that I too was at S&C the same time as Mercer was so I know all the characters he is writing about. The funny thing is I can barely remember him and I'm sure he can't remember me either as I think I count only as one of the few transients he mentions.
I couldn't stand not having a shower, kitchen or toilet and the others there were somewhat of a clique. For one I never got an invite to the New Zealand embassy, perhaps I wasn't there long enough. Another in
Nov 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Ever just feel like chucking it all - your job, your bills and all your other obligations? Well, my friends, you're gonna love this book. For circumstances somewhat beyond his control, author Mercer fled his Canadian home and found refuge in Shakespeare and Company, the famous Paris bookstore.

It's important to note that this isn't Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company, but rather George Whitman's Shakespeare and Company - a bookstore and would-be-writer flophouse. Whitman - no relation to Walt
Jul 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: france, biography
I've have just found another reason to visit France next year.The book centers around the famous Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris.A Canadian crime reporter has to leave Canada (you'll read why) and end up in Paris.Then by chance he comes across this bookstore and gets free room and board as long as he provides a biography and works in the store 2 hours a day.I will let you all read the book to see what happens.A must-read for any book lover.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
It's fun to read about book shops, and the Shakespeare and Co. is a unique place for sure as it sells books, functions like a library, and offers shelter for down and out writers.

However, I am not a fan of Mercer's style--his journalistic background shines through with a lot of telling and not much showing. He also has a pomposity about him that I didn't care for--despite the fact that he wrote about an impoverished time in his life.
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who loves independent bookstores (and anyone who loves Paris, loves books, loves San Francisco's City Lights bookstore, is planning to visit Paris, okay, let's just say anyone!) should read this enchanting story about the legendary Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris.
Marye odom
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who has worked in a bookstore, who has romanticized working in a bookstore, and who wants a little validation for bohemian leanings.
May 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful story, well written... it made me want to go there and do all the things that the author did, which is the definition of a good "travel" story, if you ask me.
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some people call me the Don Quixote of the Latin Quarter because my head is so far up in the clouds that I can imagine all of us are angels in paradise. And instead of being a bonafide bookseller I am more like a frustrated novelist store has rooms like chapters in a novel. And the fact is Tolstoi and Doestoyevski are more real to me than my next door neighbours, and even stranger is the fact that even before I was born Doestoyevski wrote the story of my life in a book called ‘The Idiot’ and eve ...more
Taylor Lee
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
Ah— a little bohemia where might live long left misfits persists. It gives heart to a soul bleached bland so white to know an eden briefly out wheres houses some curious-minded, some poets, readers and writers in this centrifuge of global capitalism, yet a naïve place playful invites.
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a lovely book. A must-see bookstore <3
Robin Prevallet
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you truly love Paris and old bookstores, you will enjoy this! And that title!
Fariba Arjmand
May 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
Apart from the chapter in which the author talks about George Whitman, the rest of this book was as boring as listening to someone else's memories or dreams.
Trish Clark
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A funny and interesting autobiography about his time in the quirky and fascinating book shop in Paris.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sweet and nostalgic memoir of time spent in Paris at Shakespeare and Company.
Canadian ex-newspaperman Jeremy Mercer was down on his luck and funds when he managed to find a berth at George Whitman's Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, France in late 1999. The memoir of his stay and of the people he met was first published in 2005 as Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare and Co and later as "Time Was Soft There." The second title comes from a passage in the book where Mercer contrasts hard and soft prison time and concludes that his Shak ...more
Patti's Book Nook
"In a place like Paris, the air is so thick with dreams they clog the streets and take all the good tables at the cafes. Poets and writers, models and designers, painters and sculptors, actors and directors, lovers and escapists, they flock to the City of Lights."

Mercer's quirky, bohemian memoir seems so quintessentially Paris. I have never traveled to Europe, and the only thing I knew prior to reading was that the Parisian Shakespeare and Company is one of the world's most famous bookstores. Me
Jeremy Mercer flees a threatening situation in his native Canada, leaving behind his family and his job as a crime writer, and finds himself in Paris. Short of funds and living a lonely life in a cheap hotel, he stumbles across the famous bookstore Shakespeare and Co.,and meets its eccentric and charismatic owner George Whitman, who allows aspiring writers to stay there free, in return for their help in running the bookstore. This is a memoir of Mercer's time living in Shakespeare and Co, the ch ...more
Katharine Ott
“Time was Soft There” – written by Jeremy Mercer and published in 2005 by St Martin’s Press. The subtitle for this book briefly tells the gist of the story, “A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.” Author Mercer flees Canada due to a threat to his life and, when his money runs out in Paris, finds himself asking for shelter at this celebrated bookstore. He joins others there, “people disillusioned with mainstream culture, looking for a place to lick their wounds, yearning to make the world a be ...more
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm somewhat surprised that other reviewers found the author self indulgent; to me he was in the story without remotely being the story. yes, the first chapter is about him, but the book would be missing context had it been left out and it does cycle back to mirror a theme. yes, they got drunk at the river, but those bits aren't about getting drunk, they're about the interactions of the people. his feelings are almost universally described in relation to something, to give insight into the recei ...more
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