“…it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books. They looked after people.” (24)
Nina George’s international bestseller, The Little Paris Bookshop (June 2015), finally made its US debut earlier this year. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.
The book centers on Monsieur Jean Perdu, an eccentric bookseller who runs his own literary apothecary bookstore on a barge. Here he treats ailments of the soul with books–lost love, forgotten friendships, the end of a beloved time span.
Much like a food pusher insists you eat the food he/she is offering, Jean is a book pusher, insisting you, in some cases, put down the book you came to buy and buy the book he offers you instead. For example, when a customer comes in looking for a specific author, Jean refuses to give her the book and insists she buy Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. These scenes made me want to read the books he was offering to other characters in order to find out exactly what he meant by insisting they read it.
Solving other people’s problems is what Monsieur Perdu does to forget his own. The love of his life, a married woman named Manon, one day just walked out on him. She gave him a letter but he never opened it because he was never ready to read her reasons why she left. Twenty years later (he is now 50 years old), he still hasn’t opened it. When a neighbor finds it in the drawer of a table he gave her, Jean must decide what to do with it. Will he open it? What does it say? What follows is an adventure you’ll just have to read for yourself.
Although it was a bit slow to start, once Jean departs on his adventure along the Siene to find his lost love, things pick up. Intermixed are entries in Manon’s travel journal. Starting with how Jean met Manon, these journal entries really added to the story and brought depth to the main character. Monsieur Perdu is a character I won’t soon forget.
At the end of the book is a double treat: recipes and “Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy.” These two sections really add to the book. I especially enjoyed seeing all the referenced books in one spot, along with their treated conditions and side effects. I have a few new titles on my to-read list, thanks to Monsieur Perdu.
The Little Paris Bookshop is a very clever and heartwarming book. Perfect for any bibliophile on your holiday wish list!
Reviewed by Libby Bridges
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