The Little Paris Bookshop’s main character’s name Jean Perdu, or “lost John” in English, hints of the unmoored life that Perdu drifts through both literally and figuratively on his Paris bookshop on a barge floating in the Seine. Perdu, stuck in a time warp since his beloved Manon left him 21 years previously, has never opened the letter Manon left behind. Instead of living life, Perdu advises others via his appropriately named Literary Apothecary store. While unable to solve his own difficulties, Perdu readily diagnoses his customers’ troubles and always prescribes the perfect book to heal them. Monsieur Perdu considers that “a book is both medic and medicine at once.” Readers will enjoy the titles Perdu suggests particularly those like The Elegance of the Hedgehog that many will remember.
When sad, but beautiful Catherine moves into Perdu’s apartment building, he falls for her, tries to solve her woes, and at her urging opens Manon’s letter only to learn that he had not heeded Manon’s request for him to join her in Provence where she was dying two decades previously. While simultaneously grieving and realizing the folly of lost opportunity, Perdu decides to untether his book barge and head south to Avignon. Another neighbor, a young, acclaimed author suffering from writer’s block, joins the journey and along the way they meet others in need of healing books and soon begin to heal themselves.
The Little Paris Bookshop begins unsteadily with cumbersome romantic scenes and descriptive passages that are beautiful yet often come between the reader and the story’s pace. Once Perdu and his fellow traveler Max Jordan set sail, though, the book also catches the wind and begins to soar. As Perdu and Jordan allow themselves to shrug their burdens and enter life in small river towns along the Seine and the Rhone, the book finds a harmony similar to that which the men enjoy. Clever and kind characters join the journey providing lush descriptions of food, river towns, and vineyards along the way. Their visit to Cuisery, the French village of books, a town packed with bookstores, will beckon bibliophiles to make travel plans immediately.
The book was first published in Germany where author Nina George has published 26 novels, over a hundred short stories, and more than 600 newspaper columns. Readers must visit her book site: http://www.readitforward.com/book-apothecary/ where a series of clicks will lead inquiring minds to book cures for what ails them. For fun, I clicked on “Discouraged” then on “General Malaise and Ennui” and found the perfect cures in books including The Enchanted April and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Such cleverness and intricate knowledge of books is indicative of the power of reading that lies within this gem.
A bonus is the last section, aptly titled “Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy” that contains a list of book titles:
“Fast-acting medicines for minds and hearts affected by minor or moderate emotional turmoil. To be taken in easily digestible doses (between five and fifty pages) unless otherwise indicated and, if possible, with warm feet and/or with a cat on your lap.”
Summing it Up: The Little Paris Bookshop is an ode to the healing power of reading, travel, food, humor, forgiveness, and love. Book lovers won’t be able to resist its charm.
Rating: 4 stars
Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Soul Food, Book Club
Publication date: June 23, 2015
Author Website: http://www.nina-george.com/
Read an Excerpt: http://www.readitforward.com/book-apothecary/
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Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/9780553418774