BOOK REVIEW: THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP by Nina George
It’s present day, & Monsieur Jean Perdu, fifty years old, runs his book barge on the Champs-Elysées called the Literary Apothecary. He has the unique gift of asking a few specific questions of his individual customers & then prescribing a specific book to cure his or her emotional ailment. Books are his entire life, especially since his lover, Manon, left him with nothing but a note twenty-one years ago. He was so shocked & angry at her sudden departure, he had locked the letter away.
When a newly divorced tenant moves across the hall in his apartment complex, he donates his kitchen table & a couple of books to her door. Catherine finds Monsieur Perdu’s unopened letter from Manon in the table drawer & insists he read it. Upon reading the letter, he learns something heartbreaking, & uncharacteristically, he leaves impulsively on his book barge to Avignon to find closure with Manon.
As he departs, Max Jordan, a young bestselling author & acquaintance of Monsieur Perdu, who is doing everything he can to not be recognized by his adoring fans, jumps on to the barge & pleads that he be allowed to join on the adventure. Monsieur Perdu gives in (but says nothing about it being a whole twenty one years since Manon’s letter was left for him). One of their first ports is Montargis, where they begin a friendship with Cuneo, a chubby bartender who knows his way around a French kitchen. Searching for love, himself, Cuneo joins the pair on their adventure to the South of France by river.
Monsieur Perdu has stuffed down every feeling & kept every relationship at an arm’s distance for twenty one years. His books & puzzles have kept him occupied while allowing him to remain numb to his own life. But now– he is experiencing friendship & life away from the home Manon had abandoned him inside. But with freedom comes emotion, & all of his begin to resurface. Before Monsieur Perdu can find closure with Manon, he must remember who he is & what his life is meant to be.
I absolutely adore this book. If you love the idea of traveling to Europe but a $16 book sounds more up your financial alley, The Little Paris Bookshop is your answer.
After I finished the book, I was telling Blake how the author, Nina George, must have experienced some sort of major loss in her life because there was no way she wrote this kind of grief merely through imagination. I flipped back to the dedication page where she had dedicated the book to her father who had passed away the year before. The way she moves through the cycles and stages of grief is so well done. I imagine anyone who has suffered loss wouldn’t feel alone after reading her words.
But this is not a depressing read. There is laughter & thoughtfulness, & FOOD! There is even a section at the end of the book containing recipes for all of the entrees discussed in the book. My kind of read, 100%. You’ll picture the scenery down the river & later the stunning coast of France, & you may even consider packing your bags & living on the Seine for a bit.
If you are looking for a book that is equal parts whimsical & thought provoking, look no further.
A few disclaimers: there is some scattered language, & the story is a little steamy. (Monsieur Perdu and Manon were not married–only ever lovers.) Some of his memories of them are sexual– nothing too graphic, but maybe not the best read to share with your travel-obsessed teenage daughter, ha.
A few of my favorite quotes:
He had found beneath the sorrow a place where emotion and happiness could live alongside tenderness and the realization that he was lovable after all. (229)
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. (301)
If you were to describe one event that made you who you are, what would it be? (287)