Wednesday 2 September 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

It is important, when reviewing a book set in a place you adore (Paris), about the things (books) you may trade a dear child for, that your love for these is not mixed up with your appreciation of the book about them. But sometimes it is not so easy to distinguish between the two. Sometimes the writing draws you in so well that your love for the stuff in the book you are reading is shared with the characters in that book. So, you are supposing that this happened for me in this book. Actually not so much. The Paris settings were not as vivid as the parts set on the barge (which is the bookshop, or “Literary Apothecary”) that launched off down the Seine to Provence, stopping at villages along the way. Those were more beautifully drawn, and I was there.

But what about the story?

A book therapist, Jean Perdu, meets a distraught Catherine, and through this interaction discovers something dramatic about a previous relationship with Manon that requires him to go to Provence and confront people and issues. He is joined by a stressed out novelist, a passionate Italian and of course his cats. The history unfolds through the pages of a journal, written by Manon.

There were parts that were gorgeous. The writing is engaging and the story flows like the river they are sailing. There are also moments, elegantly captured in time and space that will stay with me for their beauty and poignant value.

I struggled to relate to the book recommendations, however. It wasn’t that I hadn’t read the books, but for me they didn’t really make much sense, and the fact that the man was a book therapist was not central to the novel. Neither was Paris. So don’t read this to know more about Paris or about book therapy (which is kind of how the book has been sold). It is a story about people, how they connect in beautiful ways, and learn to make peace with the worlds they find themselves in. And why fill the last few pages with recipes? I don’t really get it.

A beautiful book, somewhat mis-sold by the title and the publishers’ blurb. 

3 out of 5 stars

ISBN: 9780553418774

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