Available in bookstores nationwide.
This book is special for the way in which it celebrates books, and for the journey it takes us on from broken heart to beginning to live a full life again. I will say up-front that this isn’t quite my usual read, but it has certainly got a wide audience, and it is for this audience I will write this review.
Jean Perdu’s life has been suspended for twenty-one years, since his lover left, and never returned. Perdu has dedicated these years to healing other people, through prescribing them books to read from his ‘literary apothecary’, which is a bookstore barge on the Seine River in Paris. While he has the seemingly magical ability to know where people are in their lives, and to prescribe books for them that suit their emotional needs at the time; he cannot seem to heal himself. He lives in a small flat in a building on Rue Montagnard, along with Max Jordan, a novelist who has written one bestseller, and a ragtag community of souls, held together by their concierge Madame Rosalette and the owner, Madame Bernard.
Perdu decides to help the sad Catherine, who has just moved in after suffering a nasty break-up, by giving her some furniture from a room he has not opened since his lover left; as well as of course some books to help her to cry. When opening up the kitchen table he gave to her, Catherine discovers a letter from Perdu’s ex-lover, one he never opened and read. After an evening with Catherine, Perdu finally decides that now is the time to open this letter, 21 years after receiving it.
What he learns from the letter sends him on a journey right across France, to Bonnieux in Provence. He casts off from his book barge’s landing stage after a great deal of indecision, slightly accidentally bringing aboard Max Jordan and a few dockside cats.
The journey that follows is both internal and external, as Perdu and Jordan fight their insecurities and demons both separately and together. It is a story of an unlikely friendship that develops between the bibliophile and the confused young man, as they move their boat through the locks of France. The book has a cast that tangos, whispers and creaks across the pages. Perdu solves a literary mystery along the way, with the help of a women they saved from the river Seille, and after visiting the literary mecca of Cuisery and other towns, they carry on to the home of Perdu’s ex-lover Manon.
This is a book for the Francophile in your family, and for any passionate book-lover. I enjoyed it immensely, and I will go along with the recommendation on the back cover that it is one for people who enjoyed Muriel Barbary’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog (loved that book). Perhaps it is one for your significant female other this mother’s day?
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
The Little Paris Bookshop
by Nina George
Published by Abacus