Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Publisher:  Crown (June 23, 2015)
ISBN: 9780553418774
Pages: 392 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Genre: fiction
My Rating: 2 cups 

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives.

My Thoughts:

"And the king of this world is Monsieur Perdu, a literary pharmacist who writes prescriptions for the lovesick."

Reading the reviews for this book, people definitely fall into one of two opposing categories - really like it or really don't like it. Unfortunately I fell into the latter group. Upon reading the description for this book I was fascinated by the idea of a 'literary apothecary' operating from a barge moored on the Seine river in Paris. How delightful the possibility of curing one's ills with the perfect book, and indeed, that aspect of the story is appealing, most definitely our cup of tea here at Great Reads. However, this facet of the story soon becomes lost in an onslaught of repetitive agonizing memories. 

"He had been twenty-four....but he had paid for what amounted to those few days with two decades of pain, longing and loneliness."

For, you see, the main character, Perdu, cannot overcome his own ailment of a broken heart of some twenty years past. He decides to confront this and spontaneously takes his book barge on a voyage of discovery, collecting various people and encountering a range of characters along this literal and emotional journey.

"Yes, she had shown him what a hideous life he had chosen, how painful was the loneliness he endured because he didn't have the courage to trust someone again." 

There are, however, some positives to be found. Firstly, you are taken on an interesting journey through the French countryside via waterways on a barge. Secondly, there are a multitude of wonderful bookish quotes and philosophies to be had here.

"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."

Unfortunately, the rest of the story surrounding those quotes is quite lacking. Much of it feels like a collection of little snippets and musings strung together but never truly connected. The concept of a literary apothecary is fabulous, and as the amazing array of quotes I highlighted testify, the author has written some truly excellent prose. Sadly however, for me, the direct connection was never made to the story that was being told and therefore fell decidedly flat.

"Perdu suspected that these small children....would one day grow up to need reading....the feeling of having a film running inside your head, as much as they needed air to breathe."

Thirdly, there is 'Jean Perdu's Emergency Literary Pharmacy' included after the story where you will find 'medicines for mind and heart' as well as a range of recipes from the cuisine of Provence - both are nice touches.

Ultimately, however, the pacing is just too slow and somewhat disjointed, without any real coherent flow or direction. I never really engaged with the characters and therefore their trials became my angst through a lack of investment in any of them. Personally I found the whole romantic element to be somewhat blown out of proportion and, in fact, felt it took away from what could have been a great journey. For much of the book, it's simply tiresome to read - So frustrating as the potential was there to write a great book about books. 

"Books are more than doctors, of course. 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."

Sadly, even though I enjoyed the language, sentiment on reading, and observations on life, as a complete tale, The Little Paris Bookshop was not my cup of tea after all. 

"For those few hours Jean Perdu had grasped life's secrets and purposes. He had been at peace with himself, everything in its rightful place. He had known that nothing ever ends, that everything in life flows into everything else and that he could do no wrong."

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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