Adrienne Monnier was one of the hidden focal points of the Lost Generation in Paris. Her bookstore, La Maison des Amis des Livres, was a meeting place for some of the most famous authors of the time and their fans. Joyce, Hemingway, Gide, Colette and Eliot were among her many associates in the literary world.
In addition, she was in many ways a trailblazer. She opened her bookstore in 1915, at a time when women in France were obviously not encouraged to do such things. She pioneered the concept of a lending library in France, a luxury that Americans take for granted, and she cultivated a female clientele. She particularly encouraged them to use the library, as many women of the time did not have money of their own, and would not have been able to get money for books from their husbands.
This book is a collection of essays, letters, and other writings by Monnier. Most of them appeared in one or more of the various literary journals she published. I found it fascinating because it talks about the period of history just prior to our own, and talks about her observances of the events which many no longer remember. She discusses going to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, her impressions on the young Alec Guiness, and her notes from the very first days of the occupation of Paris by the Germans, which chillingly reveal trying to get her Jewish friend to leave the country. Her observations on the famous people of the time are enhanced by her intimate knowledge of them all, and are, for that very reason, honest and unworshipping.
Through the writings, one gets to know Adrienne Monnier and her friends. She is a gourmand, a bookseller, a denizen of Paris, an art lover, a theatre-goer, and a friend. She will provide you with a view of Paris between the World Wars unlike any other.