Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop

Title:  The Little Paris Bookshop
Author:  Nina George
Publication Information:  Crown. 2015. 400 pages.
ISBN:  0553418777 / 978-0553418774

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "How on earth could I have let them talk me into it?

Favorite Quote:  "Reading makes people impudent, and tomorrow's world is going to need some people who aren't shy to speak their minds, don't you think?"

Monsieur Jean Perdu is lost, by name and in life. The word "perdu" means "lost" in French. A lost bookseller in a bookshop in Paris - The description is a perfect hook to draw a reader in.

The book starts off really strong. Monsieur Perdu runs a bookshop, the Literary Apothecary, on a barge in the Seine. He sells books as medicine to his customers In conversation, he is able to hear their deepest needs and desires. He refuses to sell them what they think they want and then finds just the right book for what ails them. I love the idea of books as medicine; I have quite a medicine closet of my own, being drawn to different authors and books depending on what is going on in my life. The book includes an appendix with some of Monsieur Perdu's prescriptions:

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is "effective in large doses for treating pathological optimism or a sense of humor failure."
  • Moby-Dick is "for vegetarians" and may cause a "fear of water."
  • 1984 by George Orwell is "past its sell-by date."

The knowledge and love of books and a sense of humor shines through in these prescriptions. Had the book stuck with this theme, who knows where it may have ended. Unfortunately, this book turns in a completely different direction. It follows Monsieur Perdu, who has been able to find a book for what ails everyone except for him. He pines for a love years ago; he lives a solitary life holding on to his sadness, in effect building a life around that sadness.

A found letter jars his life, making him realize that all may not have been as he thought. On an impulse, he starts on a grand adventure to recover what he lost. The remainder of the book is about his romance, and the characters he meets along the way.

Unfortunately, I find his love story neither believable nor particularly engaging. Essentially, this is the story of one woman who openly loves two men and believes that "love doesn't need to be restricted to one person to be true." Both men seem perfectly accepting of both relationships. Of course, complications exist, but that is still the essence of the love story. Monsieur Perdu spends a large part of his life pining over someone who describes herself as "the voracious want-it-all."

When he discovers the letter and the truth, it's as if he has been released from his bond of sadness. That release is understandable. After years, a question has been answered; guilt may remain, but the sadness of being left is gone. What is less understandable is that he seems to immediately begin a new relationship. At one point, he gets the following advice, "Do you know that there's a halfway world between each ending and each new beginning? It's called the hurting time, Jean Perdu. It's a bog; It's where your dreams and worries and forgotten plans gather. Your steps are heavier during that time. Don't underestimate the transition, Jeanno, between farewell and new departure. Give yourself the time you need. Some thresholds are too wide to be taken in one stride." The book depicts Jean Perdu and his new love as two lost and grieving souls coming together and finding comfort in each  other. Given how he has lived his life, the abruptness of this relationship - the quick jump from ending to beginning - seems out of character.

 A story about a love affair with books turns into the story of a romance. How disappointing.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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