The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (translated by Simon Pare)

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“Whenever Monsieur Perdu looked at a book, he did not see it purely in terms of a story, minimum retail price and an essential balm for the soul; he saw freedom on wings of paper.”

I love this book; I’m annoyed with this book.

I love it because it reminds me of Paris, of all the book stands along the Seine. I love the mention of many wonderful books, which I will list at the bottom of the post. And, I love a romantic story, especially one set abroad.

Yet, I’m annoyed. Jean Perdu is likeable enough, but please. It’s like reading about a cat named Cat. Perdu means lost in French, as anyone with two years of high school French could tell you, and it irritates me to read about a “lost” man with a surname of, essentially, Lost.

Jean Perdu has been lost since his lover, a woman named Manon, left him when he was 29 years of age. It seemed she wanted it all: a husband named Luc, with Jean on the side as her lover, and the author gives us a page or two of reasons why this is perfectly acceptable. After all, she reasons, who doesn’t have enough love for everyone?

Three decades later Jean is handed an unopened letter written by Manon, found in a drawer by his grieving neighbor, Catherine, with devastating news. News which now he can do nothing about as it happened so long ago.

He unanchors his book barge, Literary Apothecary (a charming name, to be sure, as Perdu recommends books he specially chooses for each individual customer) and embarks on a river adventure with a young author named Max, and an Italian man named Silvio. Each are in search of a resolution of his own.

At turns winsome, at times trite, this best selling novel leaves me divided. I understand what it is to grieve the loss of a lover. I understand what it is to read, and “prescribe” books for others. My hesitation comes from the fact that George tries so hard to be heartfelt, but sadly comes across as banal.

Books suggested within Little Paris Bookshop:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts by Adam Douglas
  • The Elegance of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster
  • Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary (tanslated by John Markham Beach)
  • Frauen von Brucken werfen (Throwing Women off Bridges-unpublished in English) by Gunter Gerlach
  • Stages by Hermann Hesse
  • Investigations of a Dog (a short story in The Great Wall of China, translated by Willa and Edwin Muir)
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  • A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  • Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
  • The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by Catherine Millet  (translated by Adriana Hunter)
  • The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil (translated by Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike)
  • Delta of Venus by Anais Nin
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
  • the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, beginning with The Color of Magic and most recent Raising Steam
  • His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The Ritual of the Ashes by Alem Surre-Garcia and Francoise Meyruels
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

p.s. The Little Paris Bookshop was first published in German, entitled Das Lavendelzimmer.

p.p.s. I have not abandoned Captivity; I simply read this for Saturday’s book club discussion.

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26 thoughts on “The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (translated by Simon Pare)

  1. This book has been quite popular, especially with the book club crowd. I have yet to jump on the bandwagon. I have read several books from the list you include (loved Blindness and The Elegance of the Hedgehog), but I don’t know if that’s enough to push me in favor of reading this somewhat trite novel. I am enjoying a light read at the moment. Have you read Isabel Wolff’s A Vintage Affair? I’m quite smitten with it, although it’s pretty fluffy. A perfect post-holiday read.

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    • I am quite surprised at its enormous popularity; I thought it would have more of an impact on me, although I ought to know by now that I never agree with the masses.

      The two titles you pinpointed from her list are my two favorites as well. And, in my opinion there are a few glaring omissions…

      I have not read A Vintage Affair, but I surely am up for something post-holiday. Is that the name for I-haven’t-finished-a-book-in-weeks? 😉 I will look for it in my nook right now. xo

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  2. I quite like the narrative premises, but at times authors in an effort of being sensitive become cliched and i think that may have happened here. Thank You for adding the book list..I have added a few to my TBR 😀 . Also I have NOT abandoned Captivity! 🙂

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    • I think you’re so right about the author’s efforts just being, essentially, cliches. Or, wordly thinking whichbhas never appealed to me. Like, when-you-die-you’re-still-in-every-leaf-and-sunset.

      Glad you’re sticking with Captivity, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember requesting this one because I wanted to read about Paris and books. I started it and only read a few pages. The book was just not for me. I’m glad you were able to enjoy this one. You do make it sound rather interesting. Thanks for the list at the end. I’ve read quite a few already, but love adding more books to my TBR list 🙂

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    • I was going to read it for Paris in July, and I also could not get into it. Then our book club chose it for this month so I “had” to read it. I’m not sorry I did, exactly, but it’s not one of my favorite books ever. Perhaps the list at the end was one of the more revelant parts. 😉

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  4. I think if the author was French and not German, the protagonist might have a more subtle name.
    I bought this last year but couldn’t decide whether I wanted to read it or not. I’m still not sure. I think I might have a similar mixed reaction.

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    • I was gobsmacked when I found out the author was German! I think that accounts for a lot of the “syrup” as you point out. Maybe you’ll read it, maybe not; no loss either way.

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  5. Hmmm….seems to be a trend in the publishing world to title books with the “Paris” brand. There’s “The Paris Wife”, “Paris Time Capsule”, “The Paris Architect”, “From a Paris Balcony”, “The Light of Paris”, “Letters from Paris”, the list goes on. No doubt, Paris is a wonderful city (my favorite in the world) but this reader is a little reluctant to jump on the Paris-lit bandwagon.

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    • Your comment makes me laugh! You’re so right! Add to those titles The Girl and the …(fill in the blank) The Woman in Cabin 10, The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl. Blah, blah, blah.

      I am in complete agreement about jumping on the Paris (or any) bandwagon. Let’s keep reading the unique books, and the classics.

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  6. Bellezza,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas about this book. My guess is that maybe it’s difficult (c’est difficile) to describe or depict Paris in a wholly original way–c’est formidable! Why? because we hold Paris up to such a high standard, in many ways, regarding the sights, sounds, tastes, etc..

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    • So true, Suko; how can Paris be conveyed as it truly is in all its glory? Or, for that matter, love? Hard to write about without sounding cliche, or trite, or syrupy. Which is why I tend to fall back on classic literature.

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  7. I felt exactly the same about this book; it was too treacly for me, I just couldn’t finish it. I did like the list of books recommended though — also liked a similar list from The Book That Matters Most, which when I come to think of it is almost like an American remake of this book, in a way…

    But I will always stand behind the idea of a literary apothecary. 🙂

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    • It just so happens that I am reading The Book That Matters Most for another book club (yes, I’m in two!), and I much prefer it. Ann Hood doesn’t seem to put in platitudes which come across treacly as you so aptly put. And, it is great fun to see the reading lists the authors have included. It makes me smile how similarly we feel. 🙂

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  8. I just acquired a print copy of this book by chance. I was browsing through the shelves of a bookstore, looking for the titles I’ve long wish-listed. This particular book sounds promising. I’ll read it soon.

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    • The cover of the paperback I find quite appealing. All that sunlight around Paris looks so beautiful. I hope you enjoy the story, so many readers have loved this book.

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  9. Thank you for your candid review of the Paris Bookshop, Bellezza. It’s one of the books I did not finish in 2016. I had to put it down for various reasons, some you’ve mentioned here. So, thanks for putting it in words to help me understand my thoughts. 🙂
    On another note, I’ve just posted a movie review on Endo’s SILENCE. Is it too late to have it included in your Japanese Lit Challenge 10? If I remember correctly, it finishes the end of this month. That is one very moving film, unfortunately not well received by the general public. Thanks again for hosting JLC all these years!

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    • I saw the trailer (preview?) for the film Silence, and I was certain I could not see it. Film makes subject matter so real to me, and I feel I would suffer as those missionaries did, emotionally. Perhaps that is a large part of the point, but in any case, I will need to be content with the book for now.

      I will certainly link your film review to the challenge; I’m so glad that you left it here for me.

      And, I’m not surprised The Little Paris Bookshop did not work for you (us). Very few literature lovers seem enamored by it, despite our best intentions. xo

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