It's always fun to do book reviews. The fun is in the reading, not necessarily the review. Although, I do enjoy writing as much, if not more, than reading. So, either way - it's an immense pleasure for me.
I typically pick cookbooks from Blogging for Books, but this time, a new novel caught my eye. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is a quaint story about a book seller who owns a book barge, his pride and joy. Jean Perdu has been selling books for most of his life and has learned to prescribe whatever book might be the cure for the reader's ails.
Sweet, romantic, and full of lyrical lines, The Little Paris Bookshop is a lot of fun. The book has been translated from French without so much as a hitch, but, for me, the storyline falls far from the title and the premise.
The book promises the story of Jean Perdu, a loner who finds solace in books and gives out a dole of prescribed wisdom to customers who think they want one thing and really need another.
This enchanted me.
Kind of like Chocolat for book lovers.
I love the idea of a man who has found wisdom in books and as people fall into his life, they walk away with the assistance of literary wisdom, not always knowing what they need, but getting it all the same.
However, The Little Paris Bookshop is about 10% bookseller-wisdom-saves-unsuspecting-throngs-of-people and about 90% interesting European love-lost-until-you-find-yourself story.
The book begins with Perdu prescribing books to customers and neighbors and a mysterious letter from a long-ago lover. Once Perdu is finally willing to look at the past and his unmended heart, it takes him on an adventure to seek the love he once lost. By his side, a quirky novelist and a random host of international characters, Perdu sets sail on his book barge to find the truth about what he gave up years ago.
The writing is lovely, the premise is great, my only problem with it is the title and jacket cover description that really don't cover what the true story tells. The bookshop is simply a side character, as is Perdu's gift at prescribing books that heal. The primary story is of a love that is lost, complicated relationships, and a journey to figure out why we do what we do.
I think the marketing team is doing a great dis-service to Nina George. Her writing and the compelling storyline speak for themselves - there was no need to romanticize the idea of a sweet, little bookshop in Paris. Sure, that will draw people in. But, the story is what will keep them there. And Nina George has no problem doing that.
Favorite lines from The Little Paris Bookshop:
"With all due respect, what you read is more important in the long term than the man you marry, ma ch`ere Madame."
"Books aren't eggs, you know. Simply because a book has aged a bit doesn't mean it's gone bad." There was now an edge to Monsieur Perdu's voice too. "What is wrong with old? Age isn't a disease. We all grow old, even books. But are you, is anyone, worth less, or less important, because they've been around for longer?"
Personal questions, but not too personal. He had to ask these questions and then remain absolutely silent. Listening in silence was essential to making a comprehensive scan of a person's soul.
"...Any request for forgiveness. Maybe you've got used to feeling guilty for everything you are. Often it's not we who shape words, but the words we use that shape us."
Monsieur Perdu observed how the words she was reading gave shape to her from within. He saw that Anna was discovering inside herself a sounding board that reacted to words. She was a violin learning to play itself.
This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I have been honest. Honestly. :)