The Little Paris Bookshop
Not sure why, but I requested The Little Paris Bookshop two years ago and it was still collecting digital dust on my Netgalley shelf.
Determined to deal with my TBR, I finally got to it, quite timely actually, as the author just published her second novel.
The book started really well, with all kinds of really cool ideas and reflections on books and reading.
Let’s start with a few of these neat passages:
In Chapter 4:
Books, the only remedy for countless, undefined afflictions of the soul.
Perdu reflected that it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books. They look after people.
In chapter 5:
There are books that are suitable for a million people, others only for a hundred. There are even medicines— sorry, books— that were written for one person only
Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you’ve got those autumn blues. And some… well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful void. Like a short, torrid love affair.
Reading Southern Lights was a homeopathic dose of happiness. It was the only balm that could ease Perdu’s pain— a gentle, cold stream over the scorched earth of his soul.
In chapter 6:
He wanted her to sense the boundless possibilities offered by books. There would always be enough. They would never stop loving their readers. They were a fixed point in an otherwise unpredictable world. In life. In love. After death.
In chapter 10:
That was the only tragic thing about books: they changed people.
In chapter 20:
Reading— an endless journey; a long, indeed never-ending journey that made one more temperate as well as more loving and kind.
Imagine: Jean has a bookstore on a barge in Paris! And he is a really cool bookseller, as his specialty is to “prescribe” a book for whatever ailment you have. He is also good at diagnosing the people he meets!
We often speak about book therapy these days, so it was neat to have Jean so adept at it.
With one big exception: self-diagnostic! As his name hints at, Jean Perdu (perdu means lost in French), he can’t go beyond a major loss in his life decades ago, and what he did or didn’t do back then. So he finally decides to take off on his barge, accompanied by other broken and interesting characters.
The descriptions of the landscapes as they follow the French canals to go to Provence are beautiful. And they meet all kinds of colorful people!
But really, I could have slapped the guy and told him to turn the page. It got really too bogged down, self-focused, too oriented on his past, and too much on feelings.
Well, I’m realizing only now that it was classified partly under romance.
Note to self: do pay more attention to the genre specified by the publisher…
So I ended up being quite disappointed by the book, and unless you manage to convince me, I don’t think I will try Nina George’s new book.
VERDICT: Books as medicine. A hymn to the love of reading and books, but bogged down in the murky waters of emotions and feelings.
Author: Nina George
Translator: Simon Pare
Publication: June 23, 2015
by Random House/Crown
First published in German in 2013 as
Genre: literary fiction / romance
Check the author’s page on the Random House website
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
Any thoughts about book therapy?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN A COMMENT PLEASE
In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this ebook for free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.
One my bookclubs read this. I didn’t finish it. Only a few of the member states liked it, and they loved it. They were the ones who have been to Pairs!
well, I’m French and have been to Paris, but this does not make me love a book when it is not great, lol. Plus most of the book is outside Paris, as Jean leaves to go to Provence. I realized too late it was a romance, which I usually don’t like. I guess for those who like romance it should work
Surprising to myself, I have a hard time getting through books whose main focus is the joy of reading or the wonder of books. You would think they would be a natural for me–just peek inside my house and see the encroaching stacks of books everywhere! I have enjoyed books about specific books or authors, and I have loved books on the craft of making books, printing, binding, etc. But paeans to reading have often left me flat, even though I have purchased a number of them. I just want to read a good story or get on with a nonfiction book itself. That being said, I think it’s great that so many people have found The Little Paris Bookshop enchanting (I haven’t read it). It is a charming genre that really reinforces the joy of reading for many people. And I enjoyed reading your quotes! It is so interesting what you say about the bookseller being unable to diagnose himself — so true for most of us at one time or another. Thanks for your review!
actually it has an average 3.5 in Goodreads (out of 451,500 ratings), so that’s not that good. Actually, these quotations are almost the only real cool things in the book.
But this is my fault, I usually do not enjoy romance, and I didn’t realize it was classified as such.
Trying to remember another book on the joy of reading, but nothing comes to mind right now.
Actually your experience makes sense, as the act of reading is so personal.
The mystery is how this book became a best seller. (It was a success in its native Germany then a success on translation into French, then English.) On the other hand I bought it! It has some attractive selling points such as set in Paris (where I have lived and of course everyone else wants to live), set on a peniche, a floating bookshop, an on-water adventure to the south of France. However as soon as you actually begin reading it, it starts sliding down your approval scales. Today many books have some special tricksiness, and in this case it was the supernatural skill of Perdu to choose a book to cure any person’s medical complaint. Maybe the book could have survived this device, but there were too many things demanding one’s suspension of credibility. Like many (it seems) I only got about two-thirds into it, and browsing the rest it seemed to only get worse. And I wouldn’t think about buying her second book.
Yes, that’s a mystery!
Actually most of the book is outside of Paris. I did enjoy all the time on the barge and the slow canals of France (but I’m French). Perdu’s skill would be most relevant if he could cure himself! Thanks for confirming you don’t plan to read her second book either
There was a woman in the UK who had a bookshop on a barge – she used to travel the canals during the summer. I doubt its still in business though. Pity
wow, how cool!
I’ll have to go looking now to see if she is still in business.
yes, it would be interesting
I just found out that she is now operating in France
do you mind telling me where?
It was/is Sarah Henshaw who runs The Book Barge. She is a “dropout” from the London ratrace. This has received a lot of publicity over the years but the confusion comes from her usual location (in Staffordshire) and her occasional visits to London, on the Grand Union Canal, Little Venice. This is behind St Pancras Station (Eurostar) and today infested with hipsters and probably impossible to obtain a permanent berth (but I note here the trivia that Rolling Stone, former Faces, guitarist, composer and artist even author, Ronnie Wood’s family were bargees here). But there is apparently a second bookseller on a barge called Word on the Water that also shows up in Little Venice. Without a deeper search the last reference to Sarah Henshaw I found was 2014. Her website looks rather neglected from when it was set up in 2012 (possibly migrated to Facebook but I haven’t ventured there.)
thanks for the information. I keep here it for my British readers. A bit too far from Chicago alas for me to go and check
Well it seems that she has moved to France – I found a website which talks about her new venture designing small libraries. http://www.thebookbarge.com/about/
thanks for the reference!
Hah, the website went from .co.uk to .com!
And she finally saw the light and moved to France and its fabulous canal network.
She still appears to have her “60′ cruiser stern narrowboat” which IMO are terrible to live on (you can’t stretch your arms fully without hitting the inside walls!). A 5m wide Tjalk peniche is the classy thing for the French canals; and no more than 30m long if one wants to cruise the Canal du Midi. Yesterday (Saturday 15 July 2017) the Tour de France, Stage 14 on their way to Rodez, crossed the Canal de Garonne (formerly the Canal Lateral de la Garonne, the western extension of the Canal du Midi that takes you from Toulouse all the way to the Atlantic). That reminds me of a famous bookshop in the canal-side town of Le Somail (on the “long pond” section of Canal du Midi). Here is France Today’s Guy Hibbert:
“Perhaps the most unexpected discovery in Le Somail is the antique bookshop, Le Trouve Tout du Livre, a wonderful old former wine cave lined with over 50,000 antique and vintage books and magazines. I can’t resist buying some vintage magazine covers from the ‘50s and ‘60s.”
thanks for mentioning Le Somail. would love to go right now!
Thanks for that update and sharing your canal knowledge
funny, I add to reread your comment, I had seen an r where there was not, lol! I actually don’t think I know much about canals in France, though there are a lot
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