The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George
Crown, 2015. Hardcover, 400 pages. (Originally published in Germany in 2013)
The Little Paris Bookshop is a poetically written novel about “love, loss,and the power of reading.”* It tells the story of Jean Perdu, a book seller operating a “literary apothecary” book barge on the Seine. Early in the novel, he studies individuals who visit his shop and determines the books that best fit their emotional needs while on the inside he suffers over the loss of his love. Sadly, the woman he lost wrote him a letter that went unread for twenty years. When circumstances finally force him to read it, Perdu’s life is shattered. He then sets off on a journey down the Seine and other inland water routes through France joined by his neighbor, Max Jordan. Max, a successful novelist, who struggles from having lost his muse. While en route, they are joined by Salvatore Cuneo and Samy Le Trequesser who are searching for their one true love. Each passenger on the book barge must face fears; learn from each others’ experiences; and reconnect with their own souls. Will they be able to find happiness?
Part of me is still unsure about how I feel about this novel. I think that is because it has a depth greater than one reading can portray. In fact, it has the same complexities as many of the political philosophy tracts I read as an undergraduate. As hinted above, The Little Paris Bookshop is a story of life unfulfilled; true, deep, passionate love; unbearable loss; and self-discovery. It is full of little bits of wisdom, some shared from other books quoted within and even more that were written by George. And undeniably, the characters are all realistically portrayed right down to the inner conflicts within. It was hard not to sympathize with each, especially Perdu.
I will add that the title of this novel is a misnomer in four languages. In the original German (2013), the book was known as The Lavender Room and the Polish edition’s (2014) title translates to the same . That title describes one setting within the book, but not the entire novel. The English title, borrowed from the translation of the earlier Italian edition (2014), places the focus on Paris and the bookshop. The former is only the setting for fifty or so pages while the latter is a recurring sub-theme. The translation of the Dutch title (2014) is tied to the essence of the story: The Book Pharmacy on the Seine. It hits the heart of the fact the books are used as treatment for various ailments; healing occurs on board the book barge; and names the accurate setting for the majority of the novel within the title. And yes, I did use Google Translate to investigate this; it began because I wanted to know the original German title and then I checked the others.
Have you read a profoundly deep novel before? In reading this, I was thinking about the works of Camus-fiction but addressing the insights of human life. Do you think you will read The Little Paris Bookshop?
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
P.S. Isn’t that cover gorgeous? And yes, a postcard is used on the cover. It is because of the role of postcards on the journey.
*According to the book jacket.
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