Today’s guest post review is with the wonderful Jenn from Lost in a Great Book! Not only is Jenn the co-founder of Brunch Book Club with me but she has become such a close, and awesome, friend. I love the format of her reviews, and while this book isn’t out until June I’m excited to have Jenn stop by for an early (p)review during the 4th annual Paris Month on the day of her 4th blog anniversary!
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Thank you to Michele for hosting this guest review. It’s particularly lovely to write about this book because today is the 4th anniversary of Lost in a Great Book, and who else would I want to share it with but my Brunch Book Club partner in crime??
Synopsis via GoodReads:
“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.
After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.
Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.
Jean Perdu is a bookseller who runs his very unconventional bookshop out of a barge of the banks of the Seine. He believes that it’s more important to find the right book at the right time in your life, and that books are able to ‘treat all the emotions for which no other remedy exists.’ While he is uncanny in his ability to match the perfect book to the person in need, he lives a lonely existence, preferring to live in the past memories of his lost love rather than socialize with his quirky apartment neighbours. When a new neighbour moves in, she triggers a chain of events that causes Perdu to set sail on the barge – with a young writer and a pair of cats – in order to find out what truly happened.
Perdu is truly the ‘lost’ soul his name suggests, and the journey he takes out of Paris towards Provence echoes the journey he must take back to himself after years of grief. The story is a mix of quest narrative and Manon’s letters to Jean Perdu about their time together, but as the journey progresses we learn more about Perdu, novelist Max, the charming Salvatore Cuneo and the mysterious Samy Le Trequesser. Each person has secrets they keep deep in their heart, and their time together gives them the courage to share their past with each other.
What I adore about this book is how each person comes to realize that who they were in the past is not necessarily the person who they need to be in the future. The book is filled with lovely bits of learned wisdom that each has acquired throughout their lives, and that they share with each other in order to help find peace. “The trouble is that so many people, most of them women, think that they have to have a perfect body to be loved. But all it has to do is be capable of loving – and be loved” notes Perdu at one point, as he gently encourages one of his friends towards an unexpected love affair. These are true friendships, built through shared experiences and private hurt and the small group becomes like a family to each other. Like real friends, what they have to say sometimes hurts the recipient, but it is always spoken with honesty and affection.
This is ultimately a book where the journey is more important that the destination, and it will make you long for a road (or boat) trip to the south of France. The descriptions of the sights, the markets and even the mistral winds will take readrs to sunny tables with bottles of wine dishes of mussels, fresh bread and beautiful conversations. There’s even a section of the book at the back that details some of the regional recipes mentioned in the book, as well as Perdu’s “Emergency Literacy Pharmacy”, with remedies for those in “mild to moderate emotional turmoil”. I totally agree with the ‘prescription’ of Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog as a cure for “if such-and-such-happens-isms”, and recommended for unacknowledged geniuses, lovers of intellectual films and people who hate bus drivers.
Ultimately, this is a tale of finding your own story, and allowing yourself to re-write the ending to allow for happiness. Fans of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry and The Book of Speculation will see themselves in this book, but it’s a timeless story that will leave you with a smile – and a desire for a new and great book.
“Books are more than doctors, of course. Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you’ve got those autumn blues. And some…well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful voice. Like a short, torrid love affair.”
“Do you know that there’s a halfway world between each ending and each new beginning? It’s called the hurting time, Jean Perdu. It’s a bog; it’s where your dreams and worries and forgotten plans gather. Your steps are heavier during that time. Don’t underestimate the transition, Jeanno, between farewell and new departure. Give yourself the time you need. Some thresholds are too wide to be taken in one stride.”
“A bookseller never forgets that books are a very recent means of expression in the broad sweep of history, capable of changing the world and toppling tyrants.”
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George was provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. It will be published June 23, 2015. ISBN: 9780553418774, 400 pages.