This is a bookophiles book; a book for everyone who loves everything about books, and the written word. It is impossible that I wouldn’t love it.
I had little idea what to expect when I added this to my too read wish list. I have only recently discovered that Shakespeare & Co. is a real place. I first encountered it whilst watching the brilliant, Before Sunset. I just assumed that the bookshop was an invention of a clever script and a location manager – I never dreamed it was actually real until a friend posted a picture of them outside of it a few years later.
And what a marvellous truth it is that this bookshop does exist. Who hasn’t – or a least who who doesn’t also love books – dreamed of living in a bookshop. Next to eating and sleeping in a library, surely it is the most perfect of dreams. Time Was Soft There is Jeremy Mercer’s own story of the time when he ended up living and working, and writing, and loving in Shakespeare & Co., and through him you get the biography of the bookshops owner and creator, George Whitman.
The cast is bohemian, as are the stories, many of them self-contained in their nature. Indeed, for me, the book works best in the first two-thirds, when each chapter is pretty much a self-contained story. When we get towards the end of Mercer’s accounts, the book has more of an over-arching story, and this for me detracts from the portraits of individual characters. Even so, a wonderful book of a a wonderful place, that one day I will visit.