Book Review: The Last Bookaneer

The Last Bookaneer

Title: The Last Bookaneer
Author: Matthew Pearl
Publication: New York: Penguin Press, 2015.
Description: 400 pages
Price: U.S. $27.95 / Canada $32.95
ISBN: 978-1-59420-492-0

In the late 1890s, governments around the world began to tighten their copyright laws. The Last Bookaneer is a fictional tale about the fight between two bookaneers struggling to obtain the last manuscript written by Robert Louis Stevenson in order to publish it before a new copyright law goes into affect in the U.S. The story begins when Clover and Fergins meet on a train in which Clover is a waiter in the dining car of the train and Fergins is a mobile bookseller. During a train delay, Fergins begins telling Clover a tale of bookaneers, or literacy pirates, and their last attempt to pirate works of authors before international copyright laws were enacted.

Clover is my favorite character because I visualized the scenes as an outsider looking into Clover’s interpretation of the scene. Clover also has a thirst for knowledge, which drives him to search for the ending of Fergins’ story. Though I felt like an outsider, I felt as if I knew them because each character had a depth to them that allowed me to understand each character. The Last Bookaneer had numerous twists and turns that I never guessed it would end the way it did. I don’t have any negatives to say about this book. Absolutely spectacular!

It is well written, the characters are developed, and the scenes are easily visualized. Every turn of the page brings more adventure and suspense. Matthew Pearl intricately weaves historical facts with fiction to create a wonderfully written historical fiction book based on a subject that has not received enough attention – literacy piracy and the reason for international copyright laws. With all of my extensive education in copyright law, I never touched upon this part of the history of copyright law. The Last Bookaneer has triggered my interest in copyright history, and I have begun researching the history of copyright law and literacy pirates.

Adventure, mystery, and history readers along with any one who is a book lover should read this book.

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