Tuesday, April 28, 2015

*Challenge Review* The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: April 28, 2015
Pages: 400
Ages: 14+


“This swashbuckling tale of greed and great literature will remind you why Pearl is the reigning king of popular literary historical thrillers. His latest is guaranteed to delight lovers of history and mystery.”—Library Journal (starred review) 

book'a-neer' (bŏŏk'kå-nēr'), n. a literary pirate; an individual capable of doing all that must be done in the universe of books that publishers, authors, and readers must not have a part in

London, 1890—Pen Davenport is the most infamous bookaneer in Europe. A master of disguise, he makes his living stalking harbors, coffeehouses, and print shops for the latest manuscript to steal. But this golden age of publishing is on the verge of collapse. For a hundred years, loose copyright laws and a hungry reading public created a unique opportunity: books could easily be published without an author’s permission. Authors gained fame but suffered financially—Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, to name a few—but publishers reaped enormous profits while readers bought books inexpensively. Yet on the eve of the twentieth century, a new international treaty is signed to grind this literary underground to a sharp halt. The bookaneers are on the verge of extinction.

From the author of The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl, The Last Bookaneer is the astonishing story of these literary thieves’ epic final heist. On the island of Samoa, a dying Robert Louis Stevenson labors over a new novel. The thought of one last book from the great author fires the imaginations of the bookaneers, and soon Davenport sets out for the South Pacific island. As always, Davenport is reluctantly accompanied by his assistant Fergins, who is whisked across the world for one final caper. Fergins soon discovers the supreme thrill of aiding Davenport in his quest to steal Stevenson’s manuscript and make a fortune before the new treaty ends the bookaneers’ trade forever. But Davenport is hardly the only bookaneer with a mind to pirate Stevenson’s last novel. His longtime adversary, the monstrous Belial, appears on the island, and soon Davenport, Fergins, and Belial find themselves embroiled in a conflict larger, perhaps, than literature itself.

In The Last Bookaneer, Pearl crafts a finely wrought tale about a showdown between brilliant men in the last great act of their professions. It is nothing short of a page-turning journey to the heart of a lost era.


I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review by today. I made it, barely. 

The Last Bookaneer throws us into the life of a literary Jack Sparrow (Penrose Davenport). He has lofty goals, but his Barbossa (Belial) is constantly getting in the way, and frequently one ups Davenport. For his last mission, an attempt to steal Robert Louis Stevenson's last great novel before he dies and the international copyright laws change, Davenport takes his assistant, a British bookseller named Edgar Fergins, to chronicle the mission for him. Much like Jack Sparrow, Davenport's plans are usually off the cuff and seem very unconventional, and yet they tend to work. What Davenport doesn't fully realize is that Fergins is, like Will Turner, a truly good man and not really cut out for a life of bookaneering.

I recently read a book about the various editions of Jane Austen's work that had talked about the lax copyright laws between England and America, and this book brought that situation to life for me in a big way. I don't know if it's really historically accurate about the difficulties of getting manuscripts across the ocean (because with a published book I would think it would be pretty easy to just buy a copy and then take it on your journey with you), but it is definitely way more exciting than what I thought, even if it's not true.

I was completely sucked into this story, once I was able to sit down and actually start reading it at least. All of the book talk and the view into the life of an author appealed greatly to the bookworm inside of me. The twists kept me guessing, and the anticipation of the final showdown with Belial kept me turning the pages. 

Overall I give this book 5 out of 5 stars because it sucked me in, kept me guessing, and kept me interested. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction. - Katie 

Buy the Book

About the Author

Matthew Pearl is the author of the novels The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, The Last Dickens, The Technologists, and The Last Bookaneer. His books have been New York Times bestsellers and international bestsellers translated into more than 30 languages. His nonfiction writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and Slate.com. He has been heard on shows including NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition Sunday," and his books have been featured on Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning. 

Matthew Pearl grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School. He has also taught literature and creative writing at Harvard University and Emerson College, and has been a Visiting Lecturer in law and literature at Harvard Law School. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6247.Matthew_Pearl)

My Challenges

I managed to squeeze this book in to both of my challenges for the year. For Book Bingo I used it to fill the historical category because it's historical fiction. And for the Popsugar reading challenge I used it as my book based entirely on it's cover because I put my name in the hat to hopefully win a copy through First to Read based purely on being intrigued by the cover. 

Other categories it could fulfill include:
A book published this year
A mystery or thriller (there was some mystery)
A book set in a different country (the bulk of the story takes place in Samoa)
A book by an author I've never read before

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