Romance Fiction Book Review
Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Publisher: Large Print Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning
Monsieur Perdu, the fifty-year-old owner of a book barge called “la pharmacie literaire, the Literary Apothecary in the Port des Champs-Élysées in Paris, has been alone in his austere apartment at number 27 Rue Montagnard for twenty-one years since the death of his —— named amour. He knows his neighbours better than they would ever suspect from their voices and movements in the old building and would do anything he could to help them, especially if they were sad. Moreover, he loves recommending books to his customers, neighbors, and everyone he meets.
Jean Perdu knows there is a book that’s just right for everyone, no matter what they’re going through. To him, books are medicine, and he can diagnose a person’s condition through the gift of transperception: seeing and hearing through most people’s camouflage.
Monsieur Perdu divides his customers into three categories: “those for whom books were the only breath of fresh air in their claustrophobic daily lives,” those who had been lured aboard the barge by the name of the bookshop and who bought any items he sold that weren’t books, and fans of the book, Night, in which the author had written, “about the inner life of men, more honestly than any men had done before.“
Max Jordan, the twenty-one-year-old best-selling author of Night, a book that “millions of women read to find out why men were so cruel to them,” had moved into 27 Rue Montagnard seven weeks before. Perdu believed “he was the positive print of Perdu’s negative.” When Perdu finds Max hiding in his Literary Apothecary, he explains why Max’s book isn’t suitable for everyone, noticing he thinks of him as a son.
Perdu is an expert at reading others, “a literary pharmacist who writes prescriptions for the lovesick. But he does not like to be touched or to give away too much about himself. He finds the cracks in his well-protected façade, slowly expanding as he becomes closer to his sad, mistrustful neighbour, Catherine, whose husband has left her. When she finds a letter addressed to Perdu in a sealed drawer in his kitchen table, and presents him with it, something inside him shatters.
Reading the letter sets events in motion that culminate in a bromantic adventure for Perdu and Max in the barge, Lulu, from Paris down the canals of Southern France, where they discover much about themselves and that the destination is the journey.
Along the way, they meet famous author P.D. Olson and a burly Italian bartender, Salvatore Cuneo, who has been scouring the rivers for his lost love for twenty years. Cuneo joins them on board the barge, becoming their cook, and the three men search for their respective muses.
Not only has Nina George written exquisitely described passages about the settings of Avignon, Bonnieux, and Sanary-sur-Mer in The Little Paris Bookshop, she teases all the senses with her words. She is also astutely aware of love and grief, and her love for her characters is profound. I found this book enormously moving because it reminded me of myself. When Perdu realizes that he has grown old without noticing and lost so much time (not truly living because he protected his heart from loving) that he no longer knew who he was, the hair on my head tingled. Likewise, this book girl, now a fifty-nine-year-old woman whose thirty-year-old memories of love and the hurt it caused, which served no purpose other than to isolate her heart and prevent her from truly living, has had an epiphany but fears it is too late.
All I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember is to go to Paris to enjoy its marvelous art and history, scour its bookshops, drink wine, and eat baguettes and cheese at a café overlooking the Seine. Possibly even finding love there. But now I’m older, poorer, and suffering from autoimmune diseases that will likely prevent me from ever pursuing my dream.
Whatever you do, do not let this happen to you.
Books find us for a reason. We pick them up and know intuitively that we will enjoy reading them, and we do. However, they are no substitute for living life large, in the now, with someone you love.
The Little Paris Bookshop is a love story about the love of friends, lovers, books, adventure, coming to terms with grief, and the metaphors of tango. It is about learning to open your heart again to allow yourself to love. And I loved it! It even contains recipes in the back from the cuisine of Provence and “Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy” with book suggestions for dealing with various emotions and life issues. So read The Little Paris Bookshop and learn how to relax into the dance of life.