Published in: 2007
Edition read: Paperback
Harry Gordon Selfridge was a charismatic American who, in twenty-five years working at Marshall Field’s in Chicago, rose from lowly stockboy to a partner in the business which his visionary skills had helped to create. At the turn of the twentieth century he brought his own American dream to London’s Oxford Street where, in 1909, with a massive burst of publicity, Harry opened Selfridge’s, England’s first truly modern built-for-purpose department store. Designed to promote shopping as a sensual and pleasurable experience, six acres of floor space offered what he called “everything that enters into the affairs of daily life,” as well as thrilling new luxuries—from ice-cream soda to signature perfumes. This magical emporium also featured Otis elevators, a bank, a rooftop garden with an ice-skating rink, and a restaurant complete with orchestra—all catering to customers from Anna Pavlova to Noel Coward. The store was “a theatre, with the curtain going up at nine o’clock.” Yet the real drama happened off the shop floor, where Mr. Selfridge navigated an extravagant world of mistresses, opulent mansions, racehorses, and an insatiable addiction to gambling. While his gloriously iconic store still stands, the man himself would ultimately come crashing down.
I’d never even heard of this “Selfridge” place before the television show came out, and then I was hooked. When we travelled over to London a few years back, I forced the family to wander through Selfridge’s, just so I could compare it to the TV show. The store itself is hideously expensive- I’d have to take out a bank loan in order to buy a pen from that store, seriously. But I needed to buy something, anything, so I found the books in the basement and brought this bad-boy. Then proceeded to not read it for three years, because my TBR shelf is out of control.
Anyways, finally cracked this book open and it was really good. Selfridge changed the face of shopping and made it into what we take for granted today, he was a pioneer of the industry and a man of the people, and he was some sort of asshat who cheated on his wife regularly (that was disappointing to read about, I’d hoped it was just exaggerated in the show but no, this was how he actually was).
That aside, it was an interesting book and very informative. I kept having to go on wikipedia or youtube to check out things mentioned in the book- famous songs of the year, dance crazes, it-girls, fashion trends etc. I really enjoyed reading this and learning a bit about this legendary shop and the people who created it.
Shopping, seduction & Mr Selfridge rating: 7/10
Would I re-read it? Yes, I’d definitely read this one again
Who would I recommend it to? Fans of the TV show would enjoy this book, anyone interested in history, shopping, marketing- they would enjoy this book as well.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shopping-seduction-mr-selfridge-lindy-woodhead/1101061111