The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.jpg

Jean Perdu is indeed lost as his French surname suggests. Twenty one years ago the love of his life left and the only way he can assuage his pain is by running a ‘literary apothecary’, a bookshop where Jean diagnoses customers’ emotional states and prescribes the best book for easing the symptoms and pain each customer is suffering. But the only person he can’t heal with literature is himself.

There is another reason this is no ordinary bookshop - it is housed in Lulu, a beautiful barge moored on the River Seine in Paris. Jean lives in an apartment building on the Rue Montagnard which is also home to a successful young novelist with writer’s block, a weeping woman and a terrific concierge.

In order to find himself again, Jean realises that he has to make a journey back to where his lover came from so, in a dramatic moment, he unmoors the boat and sets off an a magical tour down the rivers and canals towards Provence. Along the way he collects an assortment of characters each contributing to Jean’s journey of discovery and their own pathways.

This novel is a delightful melange of interrogating one’s purpose in life and the mistakes made along the way, of using books to enlighten the journey and learning many of life’s lessons from the people Jean encounters along the pilgrimage he makes through the French canal system. And one of the stars of this story is Provence itself. Nina George celebrates this part of France through the medieval hill towns, the waterways, the smells, the food and above all the people – fellow travellers, local farmers, winemakers, cooks……

Translated from the German The Little Paris Bookshop is written in lyrical prose with deep observations about life and death, fear and sorrow, friends and friendship and above all love. The love of literature and the life lessons it provides is supplemented by a literary “first-aid kit” at the end of the book where the author lists important titles, the ailments they can cure and some possible side effects. 
A superb read.