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Published April 29th 2019
Take a trip on a literary apothecary
As an unashamed Francophile, the title of this sweet novel had me straight away. There was no way that The Litte Paris Bookshop was going to stay on the shelf while I was in the bookstore!
Photo courtesy Booktopia
This is the story of 50 year Frenchman, Jean Perdu who owns a converted barge, formerly named Lulu, which he has converted into a bookstore. But this is no ordinary book store. Jean's is a "literary apothecary"; he treats the feelings of his customers for illnesses not diagnosed by doctors.
They are suffering from afflictions of the heart and soul and as a literary pharmacist, he knows that books are the only medicine for their ills.
He describes his profession as "putting the right novels to the right ailments to sell books." He customers step on board the barge, tell him their concerns and they leave with just the right novel to make them feel better.
However, we come to understand how Parisian, Jean is suffering his own ill from the sudden departure of his beloved, carefree, spirited French love Manon (a resident of Provence in the south) from his life 20 years earlier. His 5 year affair with the married Manon ended abruptly when she returned to Provence and failed to come back to Paris as she did each 6 months to re-kindle their love. Jean is left with only the emptiness of loss and constant memories of Manon.
While Jean spent years trying to cure others ills through prescribing books, he comes to realise that the only way to cure his own pain is to live and embrace the joys of life and not just read about it in a book. This means going to Provence and finding the goodbye from Manon which he had missed.
Why did she leave? This is a pain which Jean must face if he is to find happiness again. This is a story of love lost, the pain of grief, and healing to love again.
We feel the overwhelming weight of Jean's loss through each page and this does bring a heaviness to the book. But a collection of amusing characters who we meet along Jean's travels south bring colour and amusement to the overwhelming sense of loss.
Nina George has written a lovely book which provides a journey through France and a journey with Jean Perdu and his friends. I didn't skip through the book as quickly as I might have thought – perhaps it was the heaviness which seeped through the pages.
I did enjoy getting to the end to discover a series of French recipes and suggested books from the author to cure a range of emotional turmoils for her readers. This was a nice gift and filled the wish to have a bookseller like Jean in all of our lives. The Little Paris Bookshop is a lesson in saying goodbye in order to say hello.
About the Author Nina George is a German writer, She has published 26 books as well over a hundred short stories and more than 600 columns.