The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop

“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 apot...

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Title:The Little Paris Bookshop
Author:Nina George
Rating:
ISBN:0553418777
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:392 pages

The Little Paris Bookshop Reviews

  • Chris
    Dec 27, 2014

    Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

    There is an independent bookstore in Philadelphia called Joseph Fox. It is smallish – one floor, a big first room, a passage, a back room, and a smaller backer room where the children’s books are kept. Every conceivable space is packed with books. Does it have the selection of the big chain store or of Amazon? No. And it doesn’t offer discounts either, though it does give away bookmarks.

    But here’s the thing. You can walk into that bookstore and find four books tha

    Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

    There is an independent bookstore in Philadelphia called Joseph Fox. It is smallish – one floor, a big first room, a passage, a back room, and a smaller backer room where the children’s books are kept. Every conceivable space is packed with books. Does it have the selection of the big chain store or of Amazon? No. And it doesn’t offer discounts either, though it does give away bookmarks.

    But here’s the thing. You can walk into that bookstore and find four books that you never heard of but can’t live without. You can walk into that bookstore with only a general idea of the book you’re looking for, just a summary, and the staff will know which book you want. You can walk in there wanting a book but not knowing what and leave with the perfect thing.

    It is the small bookstores, be they independent bookstores or used bookstores, that offer such things as well as interesting conversations about all things. There is much good to be said for the chain stores and Amazon, in particular when you live in the middle of no-where, but the worse is those people who never discover that amazing independent bookstore – either because the reader refuses to leave the computer store or because the independent store closes due to lack of sales.

    A shame, on so many levels, but perhaps most of all because Amazon’s recommendation generator is nowhere as good as a real human bookseller who knows and loves books. Many readers have something of this in them – a tendency to get other people to read and to match people with books. A true bookseller does this, seemingly, without much thought but does it perfectly.

    At the start of this novel, that is the point. Perdu (an important last name for those who know French) sells books from his barge, which is currently moored in Paris. He has the art of matching person to book. He is a book healer – using books to heal those who need it – but the saying “physical heal you” is apt. Perdu is lost in more ways than one, though to him, it is because of his lost love. Eventually, he begins a journey that is as healing for him as the books he carries with him and travels though.

    In part, the novel is about the discovery of self, of learning to live in the world; in another way, the novel is about the power of books and how they affect readers. To this end, at the close of the novel there is not only recipes for the food mentioned, but also a list of books and their possible cures (Terry Pratchett is mentioned!). In some ways, the dual purpose lets the book down because the novel is strongest when dealing with books. It is somewhat like A Novel Bookstore, though the tone is at once more interior and lighter. It is the journey though the canals, at once an Odyssey at other times a Ulysses that sometimes, at certain points, feels as if it doesn’t quite belong. Though how the novel would work without it, I cannot see. If the canal section at time feels a little out of place, at times it feels totally in sync and powerful. One of the companions that Perdu gains are a cook and books are linked thereafter with food and good wine (as they always should be).

    George’s writing is marvelous; there is a type of magic to it. She is able to paint a picture extremely well, but the best parts are when she writes about books – “Books keep stupidity at bay. And vain hopes. And vain men” (Location 241) or “Yet the novel still struck him as a kind of gazpacho that kept sloshing over the edge of the soup bowl” (Location 309). These are words that any true reader will understand.

    Another important aspect of the novel is that unlike some books about books, there is no sense of superiority, of mentioning only “good literature”. While George does mention the greats, she also refers to Game of Thrones, to Phillip Pullman, and to Hobbits. She embraces books and reading, using a definition of literature, if she is using one at all, to include books.

  • Diane
    Dec 28, 2014

    I think this is one of those books that is going to bring angry comments from readers who liked it a lot more than I did.

    This novel just did not work for me. I thought it was disgustingly sweet, poorly plotted, filled with cliches and bad dialogue, and I could not finish it fast enough.

    The sad thing is that I thought I was going to love this book. I had even saved it to read on my vacation — that's how special I thought it would be. I mean, the title has the words Paris and Bookshop in

    I think this is one of those books that is going to bring angry comments from readers who liked it a lot more than I did.

    This novel just did not work for me. I thought it was disgustingly sweet, poorly plotted, filled with cliches and bad dialogue, and I could not finish it fast enough.

    The sad thing is that I thought I was going to love this book. I had even saved it to read on my vacation — that's how special I thought it would be. I mean, the title has the words Paris and Bookshop in it. Come on! This was supposed to be my favorite novel of the summer!

    The story is that Monsieur Perdu owns a floating bookshop on the Seine; he calls it the

    because he can diagnose what is wrong with someone and prescribe the right book for them to read.

    (Bonus points if you suspect that there is one such medicine, er book, for Perdu himself.)

    Poor, sweet Monsieur Perdu has been heartbroken for the past 20 years, ever since the love of his life, Manon, suddenly left him, leaving only a letter. Did Perdu ever read the letter? OF COURSE NOT, YOU SILLY GOOSE. Otherwise there wouldn't be a novel!

    Early in the book, one of Perdu's neighbors finds the unopened letter and demands he read it. It turns out that Manon left him because she was dying of cancer. Perdu is devastated by this news, and the next day he unmoors his boat and takes an adventure down the Seine. Another neighbor, a young writer named Max, comes along for the ride.

    At this point, I wondered if this novel was written just so it could be made into a mawkish movie by Lasse Hallström. (I swear, if Johnny Depp gets cast as Perdu, I will jump into the Seine before I watch it!) The book becomes a montage of French scenery and long conversations over dinner and wine, and there are so many stereotypes of French folks that I would not have been surprised if Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron showed up and started dancing on the boat.

    If you want to know the ending, here is the spoiler:

    There are some fun bookish references — which is the main reason I wanted to read this novel — but they weren't enough to save it. Also, this book reminded me of

    by Gabrielle Zevin, which also featured a sad, middle-aged bookseller who manages to find love by the end of the story. But Zevin's book didn't annoy me the way George's did. I grudgingly give this 2 stars.

    "Books keep stupidity at bay. And vain hopes. And vain men. They undress you with love, strength and knowledge. It's love from within."

    "Perdu reflected that it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books. They look after people."

    [Perdu is giving piles of recommended books to a customer named Anna]

    "Perdu wanted Anna to feel that she was in a nest. He wanted her to sense the boundless possibilities offered by books. They 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."

    "Books were my friends ... I think I learned all my feelings from books. In them I loved and laughed and found out more than in my whole nonreading life."

  • Rebecca
    Feb 13, 2015

    Sadly I didn't love this one like I was expecting. I loved the bookishness - from the Literary Apothecary to Perdu's ability - and the setting, plus there were some great quotes. However I struggled with the story and I lacked a connection to the characters. In theory, this book is perfect for me but I just feel like it was missing something - maybe just for me personally.

  • Marianne
    Feb 16, 2015

    “To carry them within us – that is our task. We carry them all inside us, all our dead and shattered loves. Only they make us whole. If we begin to forget or cast aside those who we’ve lost, then … then we are no longer present either”

    The Little Paris Bookshop is the seventh book by German journalist, teacher and author, Nina George (written under that name). Jean Perdu is fifty years old. He lives in an apartment building with an interesting (and often eccentric) collection of other tenants, a

    “To carry them within us – that is our task. We carry them all inside us, all our dead and shattered loves. Only they make us whole. If we begin to forget or cast aside those who we’ve lost, then … then we are no longer present either”

    The Little Paris Bookshop is the seventh book by German journalist, teacher and author, Nina George (written under that name). Jean Perdu is fifty years old. He lives in an apartment building with an interesting (and often eccentric) collection of other tenants, a place where “The snatches of life that could be overheard in the house at number 27 Rue Montagnard were like a sea lapping the shores of Perdu’s silent isle”.

    Perdu is the owner of The Literary Apothecary, a book barge on the River Seine in Paris. His customers (or perhaps they are patients) benefit from his unique skills, his extraordinary insight and intuition, in dispensing just the right literary remedy for “countless, undefined afflictions of the soul”. He advises one: “With all due respect, what you read is more important in the long term than the man you marry, ma chère Madame”

    But the arrival of a new tenant, the heart-broken Catherine, sets in motion a train of events that see Perdu opening a room in his apartment (and in his heart) that has been sealed for twenty-one years. Soon after, the contents of a hitherto unopened letter are the impetus for great changes: Perdu abruptly unmoors his barge and sets off, completely unprepared, down the Seine towards Provence, to face what he has been denying for such a long time. He is accompanied by a publicity-shy novelist, two cats (Kafka and Lindgren) and later a lovelorn Italian and an impulsive book guild chairwoman.

    Perdu’s narrative is supplemented by entries in Manon’s Travel Diary and letters or cards that Jean writes to Catherine back in Paris. As the story unfolds, Perdu shares proposed entries for his “Great Encyclopedia of Small Emotions” as well as some profound observations on human nature: “The trouble is that so many people, most of them women, think they have to have a perfect body to be loved. But all it has to do is be capable of loving – and being loved”; and quite a lot of words of wisdom: “Memories are like wolves. You can’t lock them away and hope they leave you alone” being one example.

    In this best-selling novel, George touches on love and heartbreak, grief and denial, and the importance of friends. She wraps her heart-warming and uplifting tale in some truly gorgeous descriptive prose: “The Milky Way was a streak of light, a vapour trail of planets overhead. The silence was almost overpowering, and the blue depths of the night sky seemed to suck them in” and “It is different every day, and the gulls screech like little kids on stormy days and like heralds of glory on sunny ones. ‘Fine! Fine! Fine! they call” and “Sometimes you’re swimming in unwept tears and you’ll go under if you store them up inside” are just a few.

    Her characters are appealing, her plot takes a few twists and there are even small mysteries and tiny moments of suspense. Readers who enjoyed The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry are very likely to find this novel equally delightful. Flawlessly translated by Simon Pare, it also features a section of delicious-sounding Provencal recipes and Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy, five pages that are both funny and perceptive. Funny, moving and uplifting.

    With thanks to The Reading Room and Hachette for this copy to read and review.

    Just a few more quotes I couldn’t resist:

    “He mainly thought of her as ____. As a pause amid the hum of his thoughts, as a blank in the picture of the past, as a dark spot amid his feelings. He was capable of conjuring all kinds of gaps”

    “Fear transforms your body like an inept sculptor does a perfect block of stone. It’s just that you’re chipped away at from within, and no one sees how many splinters and layers have been taken off you. You become ever thinner and more brittle inside, until even the slightest emotion bowls you over. One hug, and you think you’re going to shatter and be lost”

    “It’s strange that magnificent, good-hearted people like him don’t receive more love. Do their looks disguise their character so well that nobody notices how open their soul, their being and their principles are to love and kindness?”

  • Jennifer
    Feb 28, 2015

    2.5- stars, really.

    okay, first up: hello, my name is jennifer and i got a bit suckered into reading a romance novel. :/

    (publisher lists this as 'fiction, romance, contemporary' - NetGalley listing reads 'literature/fiction' and did not have the 'contemporary romance' identifier.) i am not against romance, per se, but in reading, i am against the overly-sentimental and schmaltzy, and overuse of clichés. so this book fell apart for me on all three counts. which is really, really unfortunate. this

    2.5- stars, really.

    okay, first up: hello, my name is jennifer and i got a bit suckered into reading a romance novel. :/

    (publisher lists this as 'fiction, romance, contemporary' - NetGalley listing reads 'literature/fiction' and did not have the 'contemporary romance' identifier.) i am not against romance, per se, but in reading, i am against the overly-sentimental and schmaltzy, and overuse of clichés. so this book fell apart for me on all three counts. which is really, really unfortunate. this is a book about books, and their power to help and to heal. it's set in paris, and the bookshop is a floating barge on the seine. i mean... come on! but the books and bookshop are a feint for the love story (actually, a few love stories - the primary of which is pretty thin and, for me, difficult to believe).

    i probably should have clued in right away that this wasn't going to be the best read for me - the main character's name is 'perdu', french for lost or missing. and perdu - jean perdu - has shut himself off to experiencing the world after the heartbreak of being dumped 21 years ago. (le sigh.) jean perdu is truly, emotionally and physically lost. it's a bit too literal for my tastes. jean was left a letter by his departing girlfriend (again, a literal 'dear john' letter), but he could not bring himself to read it for more than 20 years.

    the book, at moments, reminded me of

    or

    - both charming, nice novels with interesting premises and some endearing secondary characters.

    , though, is not as strong as these and mostly it's because of the schmaltz and clichés. i felt like i was reading regurgitations and not originality.

    there was also this very strange situation where jean perdu's father goes on a bit with a long comparison of horses and women. this came right at a moment during the read where i was feeling awkward about how men and women were being presented/treated in the story, and i found myself off on a tangent wondering what the author really felt about men and women. a passing mention of someone being a misogynist happens later in the story. i'm not explaining this very well, sorry. but i felt strange that the author was female, yet offering stereotypical thoughts that might usually come from a (less-than-evolved) male perspective.

    so as to not sound so old and cranky and down on love (i am none of these things, i swear!): i did really enjoy the meta-ness of the book. as i was reading, i was marking the authors and books mentioned in the story. helpfully, the author and publisher have included a list at the back of the book. as well, there was some good eating happening through the novel. a few recipes are also listed at the back of the book. so both of these aspects were great. the book, originally published in Germany as

    (The Lavender Room) has been a huge hit for george - more than 500,000 copies have bene sold, and its won two awards - DeLiA and the Glauser-Prize.

    so, clearly this book has worked for, and is beloved by, many readers. i just really wish the whole of the thing was stronger and more engaging for me.

    (ARC (e-pub edition) provided by the publisher, via NetGalley)

    edited to add:

    1. i made a listopia for the books mentioned in

    . it makes for a pretty great reading project.

    2. authors mentioned, though no specific books noted:

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

  • Gail
    May 02, 2015

    I have just finished this book and am astonished at the 5 star reviews; it seems I was reading a different book from the majority of reviewers.

    I had such high hopes for this. I had just finished reading a very dark and disturbing thriller and needed a lovely book to make me feel warm and fuzzy; this seemed the perfect antidote, so I settled down with my faithful kindle and began reading.

    The premise of the story was just utter magic to me - a bookseller hands out books like medicine to people w

    I have just finished this book and am astonished at the 5 star reviews; it seems I was reading a different book from the majority of reviewers.

    I had such high hopes for this. I had just finished reading a very dark and disturbing thriller and needed a lovely book to make me feel warm and fuzzy; this seemed the perfect antidote, so I settled down with my faithful kindle and began reading.

    The premise of the story was just utter magic to me - a bookseller hands out books like medicine to people who need them; it sounded perfect, lovely and magical and so I commenced.

    The first few paragraphs were quite enchanting and I was hooked. I wanted to know more about the lovely and insightful Monsieur Jean Perdu and his floating Literary Apothecary and his tragic love affair which took place some 20 years before. He lives in a wonderful apartment block with some great characters, especially the author, Max Jordan, who takes Jean under his wing.

    The story then sank (pun intended) without trace for me, sadly, as I felt it became a tale of a group of males who travel the waterways of France, each learning a little of each other along the way. Nothing about books to heal people by this time. I felt disappointed and, dare I say it, a little duped as I hadn't expected the story to go off kilter from the absolute foundation of the story.

    I limped along to 75% of the way through and then literally raced to the end to finish it. By the time I reached the finishing post I couldn't have cared less about Jean, Catherine or Max and I literally breathed a sigh of relief that it was finally over. I don't often give up on books, as I didn't with this, but quite honestly I should have deleted the book when Jean took to the rivers.

    I'm desperately sorry this book didn't 'do it' for me. I really, really wanted to like it.

  • Megan
    Aug 19, 2015

    Absolutely perfect premise and storyline - I was hooked by that blurb. Unfortunately this book was not at all what I was expecting. I was hoping for a Parisian

    but with a twist - an eccentric old gentleman selling books as medicine to those who are missing a certain something in their lives. As someone who's found solace and company in books ever since I was an awkward little girl, this appealed to me. Unfortunately, that's not what I got, and that book blurb ab

    Absolutely perfect premise and storyline - I was hooked by that blurb. Unfortunately this book was not at all what I was expecting. I was hoping for a Parisian

    but with a twist - an eccentric old gentleman selling books as medicine to those who are missing a certain something in their lives. As someone who's found solace and company in books ever since I was an awkward little girl, this appealed to me. Unfortunately, that's not what I got, and that book blurb about a literary apothecary only covers maybe 15% of the content of this book. The majority of this book is a sappy romance (if you can even call this a romance). It's more a glorification of infidelity and one man's inability to get over a tryst with a married woman that happened 20 years ago. It's chapter upon chapter of him moaning and groaning about how amazing this Manon woman was, without ever actually showing the reader even a shred of decency or charisma in her entire character.

    I wrote so many little angry notes as I read (and then increasingly skimmed) this book. All of the high reviews absolutely boggle my mind because all I can feel is hoodwinked. There was some beautiful descriptive language, especially in reference to the Parisian landscapes and environment, but something was lost in translation. Halting dialogue and awkward phrasing made an already uncomfortable read even worse. Occasionally the author would just throw in the word "cock" abruptly and awkwardly, I suppose to convey a sense of romance and erotica to particular situations. Instead, this only caused reading to become suddenly jilted and tainted with a bunch of "cock"s in a spectacularly worded description of Paris. It's like the equivalent of a panoramic view of a gorgeous Paris landscape with an old man in a trench coat suddenly jumping out and flashing his junk at you, hollering "hoogalie boogalie!" It's quite the opposite of romance.

    The only good that came out of me reading this drivel is that I inadvertently learned about book villages throughout Europe and the world (they cruise the book barge through one in Cuisery, France). So now I want to go visit some European book villages.

    Other authors, a call to arms (or pens)! Please write the book I was expecting to read from this deceptive blurb: a novel about a mysterious dude who travels around on a boat filled with books he uses to treat and heal patients, a literary apothecary of sorts. Except, you know, make it about the

    and their readers and not about some flighty, selfish chick the apothecary banged twenty years ago.

  • Elyse
    Sep 14, 2015

    "There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only hundred.

    There even remedies --I mean books --that were written for only one person...A book

    is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy".

    Nina George's lyrical tribute to love, literature, people, living, dying, and all things French...

    was a privilege to read.

    I hope I'm not the the only 1 person this book was written for -- but just in case:

    "THANK YOU, *Nina George*.

    My first memo

    "There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only hundred.

    There even remedies --I mean books --that were written for only one person...A book

    is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy".

    Nina George's lyrical tribute to love, literature, people, living, dying, and all things French...

    was a privilege to read.

    I hope I'm not the the only 1 person this book was written for -- but just in case:

    "THANK YOU, *Nina George*.

    My first memory of falling 'crazy-insane' over a book about books...( and the precious gift

    books are to all of us - in absolutely all aspects of our life), was when I read Will Schwalbe's book "The End of Your Life Book Club"...

    which to this day ... Is still one of my most favorite books - ever - being deeply personal!

    There have been others since Will Schwalbe's book ..."The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry", by Gabrielle Zevin,

    "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore", by Robin Sloan, etc.

    What they all have in common - is that these books speak to us - speak to a readers soul!

    Books do heal. Books do bring us joy...make us laugh...cry ...'feel & think'. We grow, we transform ... We become better human beings.

    There are literally dozens upon dozens of quotes in "The Little Paris Bookshop" that are

    ruthlessly honest...sparkling marvelous...tender and sad... Inspiring and promising! This book

    is worth reading if for no other reason than to discover all those fabulous quotes!!

    ...This novel is for people who love books & life!

    ...Who have a special heart for Paris... [The bookshop is a floating Barge on the Seine]...

    ....(How cool is that?)

    ....Its also a novel for people who love good storytelling. There is a wonderful-bitter sweet-

    emotional story -- from start to finish!

    I LOVE "The Little Paris Bookshop"

    Thank You Crown Publishing, Netgalley, and Nina George .... This is a wonderful gift. ( I'm grateful to have been given this chance to read it). I would have hated to pass it by.

    I plan to buy copies to give to my daughters- and my aunt.

    There are people you just want to share specific books with - people close to your heart. This is one of those books!

  • Margitte
    Sep 20, 2015

    The book started out with possibilities:

    -

    P

    The book started out with possibilities:

    -

    Perdu's gift was his transperceptional abilities.

    -

    , the moored book barge, called

    in the Seine, filled with 8 000 books;

    -

    The wrong novel can be like giving a woman a dentist when she needs a gynecologist.

    He lived a quiet life for twenty-one years in his apartment building.

    He does iron his shirts vigorously, and role up his sleeves carefully, inwards, one fold at a time.

    Fifty-year-old Perdu shared his life with equally eccentric characters in the apartment block, such as the two generals of number 24, Rue Montagnard - Madame Bernard, the owner and Madame Rosalette, the concierge. There was Mademoiselle Clara Víolette, the famous pianist and hermit, in her electric wheelchair, playing her Pleyel grand piano only once a year on her balcony; Che and young blind Kofi, who could 'see' the world through the fragrant trails and traces that people's feelings and thoughts had left behind. Che could sense whether a room had been loved or lived or argued in.

    They lived the French way. Sophisticated dry wit and wisdom roamed the halls and balconies. Perdu knew that the giggles and snorts behind closed doors at Madame Bomme's apartment door on Sundays was due to the dirty books he slipped in for the widow's club behind their stuffy relative's backs. There was also the young Maximillian Jordan, the author, who simply could, and would, not leave Perdu alone.

    Monsieur Perdu inspired all and sunder to read and cure themselves through novelistic potions he concocted for them. But the one person he could not cure was himself. From a broken heart. A love affair that ended twenty odd years earlier. Her name was Manon Basset (née Morello). He simply could not face himself. Nor could he face the letter which was left in a table drawer in his kitchen. Actually, it wasn't left there, he put it there, refusing to read it.

    A new neighbor appear who forced him to read the letter. Catharine, who's husband deserted her and left her with nothing. Catherine, soon-to-be-ex-wife-of-Le-Dirty-Swine. Needless to say, the two generals were appalled. Catherine's ex-husband treated her shamelessly, like a moth treated a wedding veil. But Catherine was so deliciously French in her calmness and acceptance of the situation. And she was not like other wives, fridges in Chanel.

    The neighbors all pitched in and provided her with furniture. Perdu gifted the table with the letter in. The two generals thought Perdu was like cashmere compared to the normal yarn from which other men were spun.

    Things started happening. Perdu grabs the wheel of

    and take off for the south of France. Opening up the room, after 21 years of being closed, and finally reading the letter, spun his life into a new orbit. He needed closure.

    Max Jordan, the internationally best-selling, word-deprived, writer, avoiding his fan club and the press, jumps in and the two men happily cruise along the Seine. Their mutual knowledge of seamanship left them with a few middle-finger messages by fellow boaters, and delightful comments flying around between historical enemies.

    And that's where I leave the plot behind, Let's share some endless chattering about the experience. I loved the first part of the book to almost the half-way mark, which took ages to reach! Someone recommended that the book should be read in increments of 50 pages, nothing more, at a time. Perhaps it is true.

    I enjoyed:

    -- the love affair that went wrong - besides, what will a Frenchman be without a tragic love affair, huh?;

    -- the wisdom in the apothecary - I was waiting for my own salvation, following every word of wisdom coming from the king of the world;

    -- I adored the colorful background of Paris - the huge humming machine, pulsing along the arteries of urban contentment and happiness.

    But then the unthinkable happened. I simply got bored beyond words. Romanticizing the adulterous affair, did not work for me. The adulterous woman was a little bit narcissistic, although she redeemed herself in the very end.

    I had trouble finishing. It is like meeting a hostess for the first time who loves to force-feed her guests with her overcooked, badly-flavored food. You try to escape without being rude. In this case it is mountains of clichés. That's the only aspect of the story that could inspire me to burst out in tears. Nothing else.

    It is an international bestseller, take note.

    There's love and laughter, as well as a collection of spicy love scenes and frivolous, girlie moments. Yes, even Perdu pulls in his stomach and kisses himself goodnight in the mirror(my expression for egotistical delights). After being on the boat for so long, regaining his muscle definition, growing his hair longer, and becoming the French stud that he used to be and should be, dammit, he is ready for action again. There's women to be loved, after all. And life gave him a second chance. And yes, don't forget a lot more crying. Men cry in this book. They bring the heavens down in buckets.

    Well it turned out to be a romantic love boat, with saccharine and corny elements in the narrative. I don't want to add 'horny', to the list of attributes. Let's call it descriptive erotic love scenes. Sadly they lifted me out of my passionate love affair with the book. The story ended up being an effort to be the sentimental tearjerker of the centuries, but I simply felt nothing. I felt manipulated by the hostess with her freaking food. I couldn't stomach it.

    If you can survive the over-abundance of clichés, you can try this book. The boat just did not make it to my harbor in the end. I jumped off and swam for the shore, although I did read the last few chapters as well as the epilogue. Probably missed out on five chapters. The recipes are divine. The humor a delight. And the ending? why, it's happily ever after, of course.

    The book is a celebration of love in all its possible and impossible forms. It is about books and changing lives; it's about family, forgiveness and friendship. It celebrates the romantic grandeur of France. There's tradition and rituals and diaries and lots of words.

    The prose is really outstanding. The author made an effort to add melodies to the words and magic to the love story.

    I closed the book and decided on three stars. One of them is for the beautiful prose. It could have been a spectacular book if the girlie, drawn-out, sentimental, emotional-manipulating hype, were avoided. It could have shared the shelf of great books such as

    , for instance. But let's be fair. It was a romance. I just did not realize it before I started out. It is after everything is said and done, a prescription for the lovesick and there's nothing wrong with that. It just caters for a different audience. Millions of them.

    Don't take my word for it. You need to decide for yourself.

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    Apr 24, 2016

    People read for lots of different reasons. They want to be entertained. They want a book to explain what is wrong with them or a confirmation of what they think is wrong with their spouse. They read for information. They read for an experience outside themselves. They read to escape the drudgery of their lives.

    Sometimes I don’t understand why people read at all

    People read for lots of different reasons. They want to be entertained. They want a book to explain what is wrong with them or a confirmation of what they think is wrong with their spouse. They read for information. They read for an experience outside themselves. They read to escape the drudgery of their lives.

    Sometimes I don’t understand why people read at all because they don’t seem to like much of what they read.

    Are they reading the wrong things? Are they judgemental, narrow focused individuals? Are they frustrated writers? Maybe they can only like their perception of perfection, and any deviation from that by the author must be punished? Maybe they haven’t read broadly enough? Maybe they miss the road maps that connect one book to many other books?

    Maybe they need some time on the Literary Apothecary, and just maybe Jean Perdu can help them, but...then... maybe not.

    I do know, and Jean Perdu would be very disappointed to discover this, that negative reviews get more likes and comments on Goodreads than positive reviews. People flock to these reviews and laud the reviewer for being so “honest.” You would think that only negative reviews are honest reviews. There are reviewers on GR who love ripping classics apart, gleefully throwing the entrails of the book over their shoulders while they take bites out of the pulsing heart to the hearty applause of those who, for whatever reason, did not like the book. Maybe they didn’t like the book because a teacher asked them to read it, or maybe the language is too archaic, or they perceive that the ideas expressed are too cliche (now, but not when the book was first printed). Whatever the reason, the expressions of hatred and dislike are...well...unbecoming of whom I perceive readers should be.

    For the record, every review I write is “honest.” I don’t shill for anyone, but I am a great lover of books, and maybe what I’m guilty of is enjoying what there is to savor in any book over what are perceived weaknesses.

    Balzac had a character in

    who wrote positive and negative reviews of the same book for different publications. It is easy to write a negative review he explains: simply take the strengths of any book and present them as weaknesses.

    I could write a sneering review of this book very easily. I could focus on what a fool Perdu is or dismiss him as a man confusing lust with love or being too romantic or condemn him for giving up just when he needed to be strong. The reviewers seem to be evenly split on this book between 1 star and 5 stars, baffling really that readers who have books in common can be so far apart on their assessment. Not every book is for every reader, but the reactions to this book are fascinating to me.

    There are things about Perdu that drive me crazy. Let’s start with the fact that he has a letter that was left for him by his lover Manon when she left him many years ago.

    This has left him in a half life. He hears the lives of his fellow Parisian apartment dwellers, but never participates himself.

    He doesn’t want to be crushed and is willing to live a shadow life rather than read the letter and discover the truth of why she left him. My imagination would drive me crazy. I would concoct much worse reasons for why my lover has left me than whatever the real reason is. I’d have to read the letter, but then by not reading the letter when he should have read the letter is what drives the plot of the novel.

    When he reads the letter, he comes unmoored.

    Literarily.

    He runs a bookshop called the Literary Apothecary, which is on a houseboat. He is known far and wide as the literary pharmacist who places the book the reader needs most in their hands. This causes some rather awkward scenes when he won’t sell a book, that he feels is the wrong book, to a customer.

    His need to escape himself is so intense that he doesn’t think about food or clothes or money. He just shoves off and starts his quest to run to Manon. His writer friend, Max, happens to be one step ahead of an admiring gaggle of readers when he demands to be allowed to come along.

    Fame weighs heavily on Max. One thing that both he and Jean share is fear.

    This is a duel quest. Jean is also searching for the author of his favorite book. I know from experience that it is not always a good idea to meet the writer of a favorite book. They don’t always live up to expectations, or maybe it is that we, the readers, don’t live up to their expectations. Whenever I meet writers, I really do try not to be a cliche spouting, bloody idiot, but it is difficult.

    Nina George will take you down the Rhone river. You will meet more characters who will add their bits of wisdom and, in some cases, comic relief. You will stop off in the town of Cuisery, a place where books are embraced as part of all life. You will be exposed to wonderful food and wine. You will learn how to barter books for what you need. You will see a man, a weak, fragile man. A man, maybe too caught up in the romance of how life should be, struggle to live a whole life once again.

    Perdu is certainly not realistic. He deals in cliches because cliches are still loaded with wisdom and insight. He runs away from his problems. He escapes into books and peeks at real life through his fingers. He would rather help others than help himself. I felt protective of him, maybe because I met many people in my time in the book business who were lost in this world, but heroes in the pages of books. They are confident about books, but completely lost with dealing with the complexities of life. Many of them downshift and downshift again until they nearly disappear.

    I was afraid this would be a cosy, but if it is, it turned out to be my kind of cosy. I read this book at the right time, almost as if Perdu had pressed it into my hands himself. Life has been heavy and having the opportunity to unmoor from my life and float down the Rhone for a few hours was not only enjoyable, but therapeutic.

    You will all just have to forgive me for writing a positive review of a book that many of you have chosen to loath. I do not condemn you for your feelings because I believe them to be genuine, but then I wish we could all be kinder to one another and in the process be kinder to books.

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