Review: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Translator: Simon Pare
Publisher: Abacus, 2010
Monsieur Jean Perdu runs a bookshop from a barge on the Seine in Paris.
(Let's stop right there for a second. I have to admit that was enough to hook me. If anyone knows of a bookshop barge in Paris or elsewhere please let me know. I want to go there and give reign to my love of books!)
Monsieur Perdu is no ordinary bookseller. He has a gift for helping “troubled souls.”
Every person had a gift, and his happened to be transperception.
The bookshop is called The Literary Apothecary and through it, Perdu prescribes just the right books for just the right people. Feeling down? M. Perdu will recommend a book that will make you think, and cry, and then show you the way to like yourself again.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem able to help himself. After his lover suddenly left him some twenty years ago, he avoided any further emotional entanglement and, as a result, has not been able to get over his loss. To cope with the pain, he closed the door on memories, his love, and his lovesick heart.
Until, that is, a new neighbour moves into his apartment block; a woman whose troubled soul cries out for his attention. Tentative efforts to help her start to unlock Jean Perdu’s doors and lead him to finally reading the letter his former lover left behind.
Once the doors are unlocked, there is no more running away from his troubles and for the first time he considers his actions and the resulting self-inflicted pain. Perdu begins a journey prescribing books, meeting new people and slowly, through his love of words and determined search for the mysterious Sanary, author of the one book that touches his soul, Southern Lights. Perdu, Max Jordan (a troubled young author suffering severe writer’s block), and the barge full of books set off down the river to face their past, present, and future, and learn how to allow a little love into their respective worlds.
Sanary says that you have to travel south by water to find answers to your dreams. He says too that you find yourself again there, but only if you get lost on the way – completely lost. Through love. Through longing. Through fear. Down south they listen to the sea in order to understand that laughing and crying sound the same, and the soul sometimes needs to cry to be happy.
Jean Perdu’s connection to Sannary’s, Southern Lights is his self-prescription for moving on from his hurt. Starting the journey allows him to reconcile what he has learned about his lover and himself, the years he has wasted, and the possible future he now sees ahead.
Sanary’s Southern Lights was the only thing that pierced him without hurting. Reading Southern Lights was a homeopathic does of happiness.
Nina George has created a story of love and friendship while taking readers on a river journey surrounded by books and peopled with book-lovers. Quite possibly, the perfect setting. The writing style is quite fluid, flowing through despair and hurt to realisation and eventually peace, and linking characters and actions through a love of books and food (it comes with recipes for some of the characters' favourite meals in the back).
If you enjoy reading about books and experiencing insights into love and happiness, you’ll probably like this novel as much as I did. I recommend buying The Little Paris Bookshop and organising a few quiet hours to immerse yourself in the story.
As Monsieur Perdu advises one of his customers;
You need your own room. Not too bright, with a kitten to keep you company. And this book, which you will please read slowly, so you can take the occasional break.
Photo: La Seine (Paris). To see the full image or download it as wallpaper, visit miriadna.com