The Little Paris Bookshop could be re-named, “Poulet Soup (Chicken Soup) for the Soul”. The latest novel by the prize-winning author, best-seller and newspaper columnist, Nina George, is a beautifully-written and wistful look at love, loss and regret. It’s a finely-detailed and nuanced story with believable and likeable characters who express real feelings and emotions and often wear their hearts on their sleeves.
The story follows Jean Perdu, a man who has been alive for half a century but has not truly lived. He is the owner of The Literary Apothecary, a barge on the river Seine that sells books. He is also a self-described “Healer” insofar as he can diagnose any malady or problem and prescribe the reader with a book that will cure all.
Sadly, Perdu is unable to treat his own broken heart and deal with his own issues. He had had an intense, five year relationship with a mysterious creature named Manon. One day this woman left without saying goodbye- except through a note but Perdu was too proud to read it.
Things change when Perdu gains a new neighbour named Catherine who is a divorcee. She challenges the bookseller to confront his past and offers comfort as she is dealing with some of the same issues as him. Perdu reads the letter and goes on a journey in his barge and an adventure through Provence along with some eccentric supporting characters in order to face his demons and discover what might have been.
This novel is a must-read for any book lover as it contains numerous literary references. It also boasts some evocative descriptions and vivid and poetic language. The author even adds two final sections at the end of the book where regional recipes from Provence are offered as well as Perdu’s “Literary Pharmacy” or “Book recommendations”. The overall pacing of the story is quite leisurely and laidback, although some people may find it is a little too slow and nuanced for their tastes.
The Little Paris Bookshop ultimately succeeds because it brings together an unlikely cast of eccentric but “real” characters that you can empathise with. It also takes them on a journey through their minds and hearts and it will make you think and feel in equal measure. In sum, it is a rather lyrical, wistful and bittersweet tale about a broken man and his long walk (or ride along the river) to the path of redemption.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/the-little-paris-bookshop/9262888/