Chasing Sylvia Beach by Cynthia Morris
From the Publisher...
Lily Heller’s affaire de coeur with Paris has existed almost as long as her love for books. Smitten with the city’s literary Golden Age of the twenties, the young bookstore clerk from Denver dreams of a life like that of bold expatriate Sylvia Beach, who founded the famed Shakespeare and Company bookshop and became her own literary legend. An impromptu trip to the City of Light carries Lily further than her imagination ever took her. Arriving unexpectedly in 1937 Paris—penniless, friendless, and clueless—Lily must rely on her wobbly French and her wits. But a mysterious invitation offers her entrée into the glittering inner circle of Sylvia Beach herself. This clue leads her further into the complex and dangerous Paris on the brink of war—and it’s not the friendly literary community she had imagined. Lily becomes a character inside the world that she had fantasized about—but with chilling consequences. In her quest to return home, Lily finds herself enmeshed in an undercover league of time-traveling bibliophiles. Charged with a daunting task, along the way Lily falls for a gallant young Frenchman, discusses the art of writing with Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, and runs afoul of a dashing Nazi agent. In order to escape unscathed, Lily must make choices that force her to reconcile her past and that may revise literary history forever. A celebration of a timeless city’s allure, an engaging romantic fantasy, and a valentine to book lovers in every era, Chasing Sylvia Beach is a novel to savor and be spellbound by.
I really enjoyed this book!!! From the beginning to the end, it was great! If I could think of one criticism, it would be the ending, but at the same time...I don't know if it could have ended in any other way. Let's start at the beginning...
I actually made a note to mention this in my review, but the beginning of this book is genius. If you read the description, you know that the main character find herself in Paris in 1937. Cynthia Morris chose to write this in a great way. Instead of describing the time travel initially, the book starts with Lily waking up to find herself sitting in Sylvia Beach's bookstore. The reader gets thrown into this mystery right along witht he protagonist. In these types of situations, usually, the reader knows what has happened and how, which requires the reader to try and imagine how confused Lily must have been. Instead, Morris, puts us in the same disorienting position that her character is in. We don't even have our bearings in a story, and we have to try and figure out what happened to Lily and what she is going to do next. It's a really well written beginning...extremely clever.
The love interest in the book was written perfectly for me. The young Frenchman is all wide-eyed innocence and trust, while being dependable and helpful. He is cute and sweet without an being obnoxious, which can be a tricky character to write.
The famous characters are wonderfully imagined. Last year, I read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It was the first time that I read anything about Ernest Hemingway's personal life. This book and The Paris Wife described him in a very similar way. After reading both of these books, I am interested in reading another book about this time period in Paris. It sounds so wonderful.
This book also had a universally hated villain, the Nazis. It sounds odd, but the time period, the chracters and the tension surrounding pre-occupied France made for a great combination. These elements were woven together beautifully.
As I said before, the ending left me with mixed feelings, but I am not sure it could have ended in a way that left me totally satisfied. Sometimes that is a good thing, since sickly sweet endings that are tied in a pretty bow are mostly boring. Some conflicting emotions are good...I stay on my toes that way!
In conclusion, get this book as soon as you can. You will really like it, I promise.
*Disclaimer* If I'm wrong and you hate it, let me know. There's nothing I can do about it, but still, I will let you vent in the comments. You might feel better.