“The bookseller could not imagine what might be more practical than a book…”
[The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, pg. 1]
The two things I love most in the world are books and travel. Without getting into a long philosophical spiel about how the two go hand in hand, I’ll just say that they both let you experience new people, new cultures and new places. So when I was perusing our pile of advance reading copies at work, this book immediately grabbed my attention because it combines my two loves – travel and books.
Jean Perdu runs a bookshop out of a converted barge on the Seine River in Paris. He calls it La Pharmacie Litéraire – the literary apothecary – for he has an unusual gift for being able to see into his customers’ souls for what they most need. For according to Jean Perdu, there is a book for every ailment of the soul.
“Perdu reflected that it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books.
They look after people.”
[The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, pg.19]
However, for the past twenty-one years there is only one person that Jean Perdu has been unable to successfully prescribe a book for – himself. For twenty-one years ago, the woman that he loved abruptly left him; no goodbyes, no forewarning, just a letter that Jean Perdu has not been able to bring himself to open. However, the sudden arrival of a mysterious new neighbour in his apartment building may be just the thing Jean Perdu has been waiting for. And so, one not so special day, Jean Perdu unmoors his literary apothecary and sets off for Provence in search of answers, closure and the ability to heal his own soul.
I am not one who normally finds literary fiction all that riveting, but I absolutely adored this book. It is, in a word, beautiful. The two things that struck me the most were the vivid descriptions of the French countryside, and the wonderfully eclectic and quirky cast of characters, all of whom are so well defined and written, that I half expected them to come leaping out of the pages.
Typically, as in all novels where the main protagonist needs to find themselves to gain closure, Jean Perdu gets more than he bargains for on his impromptu trip, but it doesn’t feel clichéd or cheesy in any way. As Jean Perdu’s second greatest love is books, this novel has lots of literary and book references, each one treated with the reverence it deserves. It gave me a little thrill every time I recognised a literary reference, and every time Jean Perdu mused his feelings about literature, books and life in a way I could completely relate to.
Whilst reading this book, I tried to keep a list of the quotes I loved, but in the end, it just became too impractical because there were so many that I loved, and that resonated with me. This is definitely one of those books where you try to explain to people why you loved it so much, but end up saying “You just have to read it, trust me”.
I would definitely recommend this book to those readers who like to read beautiful books, and to those who have a book addiction like myself. If you have ever looked for closure, called yourself a bookworm, been bitten by the travel bug or simply enjoyed quirky literary characters, then this book is definitely one for you.
This book is due out in Australia on 14th April 2015.