Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Publisher: Crown, 2015
Where I heard about this book: I received this book directly from the publisher
What first drew me to Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop was all the “books about books” chatter accompanying its launch. An area it certainly delivered in. But while books play a central part in The Little Paris Bookshop it is ultimately about loss and the consequences of our choices. All of which is peppered with the food and landscape of France.
The book follows Jean Perdu, book prescriber, bookseller and captain of the Literary Apothecary, a book barge moored along the Seine and overflowing with books and . The first third of the book is filled with thoughts and talk of books, literature and book buyers as Perdu will not allow his customers to buy any old book they want – it must be the “right” book.
“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 Jean Perdu
This self-imposed hermit bookman displays a knack for sizing up a customer and prescribing just the right book to cure what ails them. But Perdu is suffering from his own pains and deeper issues as well. So he and a best-selling-author neighbor cast the lines ashore and take off down the river, in the book barge, to deal with Perdu’s past choices head on. More literary-minded characters come on board along the way as lives unravel and are laid bare.
Once the journey starts, George really starts to focus on loss, the choices we make in life and the stages of grief. Oh my goodness does Perdu spend time becoming self-aware. A lot of time. Towards the end there’s lots of yelling at the sea and pounding on tables as he comes to grips of lost love, growing older, re-connecting with himself and those around him.
The book is much more of a romance than I was first expecting. There was a lot more pining away and emotional anguish than I planned on. But the jacket designer, for the U.S. edition, nailed it. Just know that the sense you get from the cover is exactly what’s inside.
All of the book talk made it worth it for me though. Lots of Harry Potter and classic literature references to feed your inner bibliophile. And I would be selling it short if I didn’t mention the food and the river scenery. I was ready to set sail and eat my way through France by the time I turned the final page. The book even has a few recipes in the back from meals that were enjoyed in the book. Ultimately this book is filled with folks that I’d love to have over for a dinner party.
I give The Little Paris Bookshop three out of five stars and I’m recommending this book to friends I already know read romance books. But again it was worth it to me, just for all of the bookish discussions and characters.
EXTRA: The publishing team for the book put together a neat promotional book apothecary website where you can go and get books prescribed for you based on how you’re feeling.