Welcome to my stop on the A Bookshop in Berlin blog tour. It is an honor to share my thoughts with you on this beautiful autobiography. A big thank you to Atria Books for the invitation to the tour and for the gifted copy.
This autobiography/memoir was recently rediscovered. It is a treasure and so incredibly powerful.
In the 1920s, Francoise Frenkel is a Jewish woman born in Poland and now living in Berlin. She opens a French bookshop, Berlin’s first of its kind. It’s not just any bookshop, though. Intellectuals meet here until the Nazis begin to gain more control.
Then come the rules and laws, more police visits to the shop, and finally, books are taken away.
In 1938, Kristallnacht happens. Hundreds of Jewish businesses are destroyed, though La Maison du Livre is not. Francoise is now scared and flees to Paris. Then, Paris is bombed, and she travels to southern France where she must move from house to house to stay safe.
A Bookshop Berlin was published in 1945 without much attention. It was recently rediscovered in an attic.
Francoise is a woman after many of our own hearts. She treasures books, even in her darkest of days. She is formidable and inspiring in how she handles all that is thrown at her. Her words are powerful, and I’m so grateful she told her story. A Bookshop in Berlin is a treasure, and one I’m ecstatic to own to reference as a reminder to never lose hope and to always believe in the power of good over evil.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher.
About the Book:
WINNER OF THE JQ–WINGATE LITERARY PRIZE
“A beautiful and important book” (The Independent) in the tradition of rediscovered works like Suite Française and The Nazi Officer’s Wife, the prize-winning memoir of a fearless Jewish bookseller on a harrowing fight for survival across Nazi-occupied Europe.
In 1921, Françoise Frenkel—a Jewish woman from Poland—fulfills a dream. She opens La Maison du Livre, Berlin’s first French bookshop, attracting artists and diplomats, celebrities and poets. The shop becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. In 1935, the scene continues to darken. First come the new bureaucratic hurdles, followed by frequent police visits and book confiscations.
Françoise’s dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht in November 1938, as hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses are destroyed. La Maison du Livre is miraculously spared, but fear of persecution eventually forces Françoise on a desperate, lonely flight to Paris. When the city is bombed, she seeks refuge across southern France, witnessing countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Françoise survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.
Published quietly in 1945, then rediscovered nearly sixty years later in an attic, A Bookshop in Berlin is a remarkable story of survival and resilience, of human cruelty and human spirit. In the tradition of Suite Française and The Nazi Officer’s Wife, this book is the tale of a fearless woman whose lust for life and literature refuses to leave her, even in her darkest hours.
Have you read A Bookshop in Berlin, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR