“Books keep stupidity at bay. And vain hopes. And vain men. They undress you with love, strength and knowledge. It’s love from within. Make your choice: book or…”
The Little Paris Bookshop came to me as a gift from a dear friend who had read and loved it so much that she thought I would like it too. I cherish such treasures and assured her of savoring the book. For this is an absolutely sensuous book which deals with a love for books. If you do get around to reading it, then I hope you treat it so.
Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Nina George is a freelance journalist who has about 28 published novels to her name. In 2012 and 2013 she won the DeLiA and the Glauser-Prize. She lives in Berlin and her latest book published in 2019 is The Book of Dreams. Set in Provence, The Little Paris Bookshop was first published in German as “Das Lavendelzimmer” on May 2, 2013. Its been translated into 37 languages.
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Monsieur Perdu runs a charming bookshop on board a floating barge which is parked on he river Seine in Paris. He likes to thin of it as a book apothecary where he is the chief warlock who can prescribe books to people. You see he can intuitively feel what kind of a book a person wishes/wants to read at that moment. He often ends up surprising or horrifying the buyer with his perception. More often they beat a hasty retreat, and sometimes come back to take the book he had offered. In this way Perdu tried to mend broken hearts and crushed souls by giving them the comfort of the right book.
But sadly this doesn’t work on him and he nurses a broken heart from an unfinished affair twenty years ago. She left him with a letter addressed to him, which he has never opened. But then a recent heartbreak of a fellow resident in his building makes him re-assess the whole situation. He reads the letter and makes a shocking discovery about the greatest love of his life.
Cursing himself for not opening the letter sooner, he jumps ship. Or rather he sets the barge afloat and decides to travel down the river to the place where his love was from. As he sets off, a young writer takes a running leap to join him on the voyage. He is Max who debut novel created quite a stir in the literary world. But since then he seems to have developed a literary block and become a total recluse.
“Whenever Monsieur Perdu looked at a book, he did not see it purely in terms of a story, retail price and an essential balm for the soul; he saw freedom on wings of paper.”
Cruising down the river, the lush countryside with its panoramic views beguile them and they soon start stopping at the small towns/villages to make grocery purchases. Using books as coin or sometimes their words, they manage quite well and pick up another passenger. This one is a lovelorn Italian chef who seems to be a whiz at cooking with nothing. He too is in search of his greatest love and keeps checking with everyone they meet about her.
They meet many interesting people, search out an elusive writer, meet with the guild of books, save a woman from drowning and even attend a forbidden dance session.
One after the other, his two companions bid him adieu and go on their ways. Monsieur Perdu reaches the home town of her beloved but is emotionally worn out by now. So he carries forward to a very rustic and charming town of Sanary where he does odd jobs to get by. He manages to find peace and love in this place and grows to forgive himself too.
Finally he makes the journey to re-unite with Max and then goes to meet his lover’s husband to know about her death. He is handed a diary through which he learns of her last days and thoughts which help him get a closure. He also learns a startling new truth which thrown him off at first. But then it becomes the best ending of his story.
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Lasting impression on me:
Oh the premise is so gorgeous that I plonked down for a comfortable read at the word go. I was not disappointed though I took my time in reading this one. Its layered with wit and romance in every section and will make your heart flutter with aches at times too. The love for books comes out so purely in this novel that it makes me want to hug the writer and thank her.
The two drowning incidents on the river are completely opposite to each other, but will make you weep nevertheless. Then there is the countryside which is described with such picturesque terminology that I have put down this route on my bucket list. I just hope that these quaint towns and villages do actually exist for I want to go live there for a while, especially Sanary.
The two romances entwined in this tale are just so uplifting. There is no other word for them, even though one of them in incomplete. The heart break is exquisite in its pain but beautiful in its longing. I loved the tale of the other two characters too and was glad to see closure there too.
My rating is a 4/5 stars for this book and have held back the one star as it did tend to meander a bit initially with its multi pronged explanations. Otherwise this book is a must read for all book lovers.
Check out this bookish play on Instagram all this month of December 2019 and keep an eye out for the announcement of a 2020 Reading Challenge which you can join in for the Love of reading.
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