Any ardent bibliophile will attest to the fact that books are a sort of therapy. They are medicinal, They heal broken hearts, soothe some existentialist pains and energize the mind in a way that no drug can –if one knows HOW to read. One must give into the process and give each book the respect it deserves.We could say that there is a science to the art of reading well. Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop is an ode to this art and science of reading.
Monsieur Perdu is a reclusive man with a broken heart. His lover Manon left him a long time ago with only a letter for explanation –which he never reads. Instead he pines away for her, unable to heal himself, even though he helps others get over their psychological hurts and aches. He isn’t a therapist or psychiatrist. His medicine of choice is books. From his barge on the Siene, aptly named, la pharmacie littéraire (The Literary Apothecary), he not only sells books, but also prescribes them for those who need them the most. (For an amuse bouche of how this works check out The Book Apothecary app by Read it Forward based on this book. You will also find an excerpt from the book there.)
When he thinks he can find love again with Catherine, she urges him to read the letter Manon sent and a chain of events is set in motion which leads him on an adventure to the south of France. Accompanying him are his cats, Kafka and Lindgren, and Max Jordan, the author of a best selling debut novel, now suffering from writer’s block and in hiding from his admirers and himself. On the way, they make friends, learn lessons and attempt to finally heal.
For all its heavy themes of love, loss and personal discovery, The Little Paris Bookshop, is still a happy book. One does not feel depressed or ler down by it –even in it’s darkest moments, hope sings. It is a book that celebrates the good things in life –good friends, good books, good food. While it is essentially a love story, this is no cheap romance. It speaks of love in its myriad forms and aspects, be it the love for books, the love of a man for a woman, or the love between friends. It is sincere and open in the exploration of these.
While one remains eager to know how this tale will end, one does not feel rushed while reading it. These are no rapids, they are the lazy river, on which one must spend the summer floating along where the river takes us. In fact, this is a sentiment one find echoes by Perdu himself in a couple of places. As he writes in a letter to Catherine, “…a novel is like a garden where the reader must spend time in order to bloom.”
One does reach the end, having met people like Cuneo and Samy, and having visited places like Cuisery–the town where almost everyone does something related to books (why did I not know of this place?! I want to go there…now!). When one does reach the destination, there is the satisfaction of having travelled.
The true of beauty of the book lies in the way the characters have been written. They jump off the pages as flesh and blood people –I cannot think of them as fictional. The women especially are so vibrant and real, that it is a breath of fresh air in a world where one finds few well etched female characters. Be it the unconventional and sensual Manon, or the mysterious Samy, it is a treat and a privilege to meet them.
The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter. A beautiful, touching, sincere testament to the life and work of writers everywhere and those who read them. It is a must read and a must have for every bibliophile
FTC disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.
Author Bio: http://www.randomhouse.com/author/223097/nina-george