“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. – Goodreads
If I’m completely honest, I mostly requested this book because it has the words “Paris” and “bookshop” in the title. I’ve been on a major armchair travel kick lately, and France is top of my vicarious visiting list. Plus, I always want to read books about books. Win-win.
But I also hoped that the book would fit into the “summer read” category of books, and that it might have some quirky whimsy mixed in (like my favourite French film, Amélie). It delivered on both counts, though with more depth than I had expected.
The book is set against some of the most iconic French backgrounds: the Seine, Paris and Provence. Our main character, Jean, is the proprietor of a book barge docked on the Seine, a floating bookshop that goes by the name The Literary Apothecary. Jean himself is the Apothecary, boasting an amazing ability to diagnose a reader’s particular ailment of the soul and prescribe the book that will give them what they need. Not necessarily the book they want to read, but the book that will fill whatever void in their life needs filling.
Though Jean’s career centres around his expertise at providing literary cures to all kinds of spiritual ailments, in the end his own are in need of the most repair. A sequence of events culminates in a rash decision to cast off in search of an old lover and an ability to feel alive again.
This is not an easy journey, and takes him in directions he does not expect. He is accompanied on his quest by two cats and an overwrought young author with a nervous temperament and an urgent wish to escape the pressure of writing a follow-up to his bestselling debut novel. Along the way they acquire two more passengers, both on their own searches, both destined to find more than they even knew to ask for.
In addition to being an engrossing plot full of characters who will win your heart, this book is chock full of lines and passages that will jump from the page, cause you to pause and savour them. I flagged every such line I came across, with the end result of a book pasted with nearly a hundred colourful flags.
There were parts to this story that were less interesting or flat out irritating (I did not enjoy Manon’s journal entries – I found them dull and self-engrossed, though they may be more enjoyable to a different reader), but these usually didn’t last long and were a worthwhile price of admission.
The Little Paris Bookshop is about nothing more or less than the emotional experience of being human – and the necessity of feeling. It’s also a book that will appeal in different ways to different readers, and that will provide plenty of scope for considered discussion.
**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**
Book Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Published By: Crown
Released: June 23, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Character-Driven, About Books
Date Read: June 29-July 9, 2015