Friday, July 3, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

“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.

My take: 4 looks
Loved this one! Originally written in German, the translation reads so beautifully that it makes me wish I could read it in the original language.

Perdu is an altogether lovable man. He is tragic, flawed, hopeless, angry; and, at the same time, the opposite of all of these! The cast of characters he meets along his fantastical journey down the French waterways is colorful, intriguing and entertaining. The sights, smells, tastes, and overall sensory feast was palpable. I wanted to sail on this boat!

While not giving away the story, I will settle on a few things that I found intriguing. First, the author almost always refers to the main character, Jean Perdu, by his last name. I would think this was a French custom, except none of the others do it. It is almost as if he considers himself in the third person, but not quite. Almost as if he is above the others in the story...or perhaps below. This device interests me and I wish I could ask the author about it.

The second interesting item was the intensity with which these characters felt. They felt with their entire being. Their feelings consumed them, drove them, and kept them from moving. Their feelings controlled them, and the point of most of the storylines was to feel these feelings to the maximum, experience all that the feeling had to offer, then let it go like a helium balloon. I am not sure what George meant for me, as the reader, to glean from this, other than the sheer intensity of these characters. It was almost always lovely.

Always a sucker for books-about-books, I loved the mention of books woven into the story, and the fact that Perdu "prescribed" them to readers. "No, I won't sell you that book," he tells one patron. "You are not ready to read it." Books are healing, soothing, and cathartic; not merely an adventure in text. This idea of reading for the soul was wonderful. At the end of the book is a list of these books, what they cure, and possible side effects. Brilliant!!

The last item, and the one taking one look away from a perfect five, was the absent character, Manon. She was infuriatingly selfish, short-sighted, and egocentric. I didn't like her in the least, and the more I read about her, and from her own hand in a journal, the more I despised her for the role she played in the story. I found her to be completely without sympathy.

With that being said, the story would not have happened without her, and I will, because of that, consider her lovingly as a perfect antagonist/villain.

This is Ms. George's first book to be translated, and I look forward to many, many more.

Highly recommended.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.

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