Book chat: ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ by Nina George

The Little Paris BookshopFloating on the Seine is a very special barge: a bookshop tended by Monsieur Jean Perdu, a brokenhearted bookseller nursing his decades-long heartache by “prescribing” must reads for the patrons passing through Paris. This literary apothecary has medicinal tales for young idealists, overworked businessmen, widows starting over. Perdu presides over the bookshop like an eager pharmacist, ready with a recommendation at every turn.

Long accustomed to a solitary life, Perdu isn’t prepared for the sudden appearance of an equally vulnerable — and beautiful — neighbor. Believing his one true love, Manon, to have abandoned him 20 years earlier, Perdu has thrown himself into work . . . and scarcely looked up until Catherine arrived on the scene.

When their burgeoning relationship awakens old feelings, he panics — and runs. The floating bookshop takes its inaugural run. Accompanied by a young writer in a slump and many friends he picks up along the way, Perdu embarks on a journey to discover the truth about Manon — and to finally find a way to heal.

Enchanting, warm and populated with memorable characters, Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop is a delightful read for francophiles and literary lovers alike. With a touch of magical realism and many fantastic quotes to delight readers, I fell in love with this story.

A melancholy man now in his fifties, Perdu isn’t the type of hero I’m accustomed to following. He’s initially cold, distant, despondent. In the decades since Manon departed, he has never come to grips with what made her go. Jean has not discovered — or even tried — to find love again, and all he has is his canal boat filled with books: self-help, literary fiction, memoirs. Something for everyone.

His apartment building is filled with unusual folks. Max, a popular young author, is now one of them: but he’s stricken with vicious writer’s block, dreading having to churn out his sophomore story. He turns to Jean as a type of mentor and friend, arriving at the bookshop needing guidance and support. Having never had the chance to have children, Jean takes him under his wing — and together, when the going gets tough, they take to the waters.

The French countryside, Provence, Paris . . . all come alive in The Little Paris Bookshop. The setting is so fragrant and beautifully rendered by George, it’s impossible not to feel as though you’ve gotten lost on the Seine yourself. It was the perfect opportunity for armchair traveling with a tenderhearted hero, and I loved George’s descriptions of everything Jean and Max experience. The towns they find, the meals they cobble together . . . everything is a sensory experience.

At its heart, though, the novel is about the redemptive power of love. Even decades later, Jean is still in love with Manon: and the mystery of their separation is a guiding principle of his life. I was as curious to discover the truth as our hero, somehow hoping for a happy ending for the pair even when I knew it couldn’t possibly be so. When they take off on the river, Jean doesn’t realize the journey fate is already taking him on . . . and by the close of the story, I was in tears.

Without spoiling a thing about this lovely tale, the ending was just so satisfying. Loose ends were tied in beautiful but understated bows; characters we’ve come to love find their meandering way to happiness. It was exactly the sort of sweetly enveloping read that’s perfect for a Sunday afternoon, and I really didn’t want it to end.

Interspersed with the narrative are gorgeous quotes about the power of reading — and the ability of books to be both “medic and medicine at once.” Jean takes his job as a bookseller very seriously. This was an instance when I wished I had a physical copy rather than a digital one; if I was holding The Little Paris Bookshop, I would have been dog-earing and highlighting and starring like a madwoman.

As it stands, I want you to discover this novel for yourself. It’s not one I’ll soon forget.

4.5 out of 5

Pub: June 2015 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher for review consideration


Book review: ‘Textual Healing’ by Eric Smith

Once-famous author Andrew Connor is having a rough week. In a fit of frustration, his young girlfriend Daniela leaves him — and questions whether he’s even capable of writing anymore. Visiting a bookstore not long after, he finds his former bestseller at Barnes & Noble — for 90 percent off. Life at his small used bookstore in Hoboken, N.J., is full of colorful characters . . . but not big, colorful transactions. Things are quiet. Maybe a little depressing.

And then he meets Hannah.

Offbeat, adventurous and adorable, Hannah waltzes into Andrew’s life and kicks it up like a tornado — or maybe that’s just the sugar glider, the new pet he’s forced to “adopt” after accidentally mentioning he has one. After a fellow author talks him into attending a support group for writers, Textual Healing, Andrew brings Hannah along — and it’s not long before she’s shaking up everyone’s world. Especially his.

Eric Smith’s Textual Healing is a fun, sweet and unexpectedly poignant book about books — and the power, excitement and joy they bring us. Andrew “Ace” Connor is our narrator, a witty and self-deprecating guy you can’t help but like. Over the course of one week, Ace’s life changes completely as Daniela leaves and Hannah enters — but it didn’t feel like the cheesy rebound mess that might suggest.

In fact, on the surface, Smith’s novel sounds like a familiar-yet-quirky rendition of many popular romances: “You’ve Got Mail,” for one. But he turns the cliches around by acknowledging them, then incorporating the romantic jokes right into his novel. The characters know they’re being cheesy. And you know what? That’s why it’s okay.

Given the fact that I read books mostly by women, this was a welcome treat: a novel told from a male perspective and written by a man. But I’m not going to lie: though I really enjoyed Textual Healing, it was all I could do not to circle away with a red pen. Smith is a funny, interesting writer, but the grammatical and punctual errors throughout the book were tough for me to process. A writer and editor by trade, I found myself itching to open this baby up as a Word document and right all the wrongs.

But here’s the weird thing: I still liked this novel. Quite a bit, actually — because it was different. Everything I thought was going to happen . . . didn’t. And the cast of characters kept me jumping around, wondering how things were going to go down. Ace seems like the hipster writer friend you wish you had — someone out there “living the dream,” though the dream turns out to be different than he expected. Hannah was a little too ethereal for my tastes at times, but that’s okay — she’s not my dream girl, obviously. But she is Andrew’s.

The whole book is very imaginative and artfully drawn, brought to life through Smith’s descriptions. I read in another review that the reader felt it would make a great film — and I agree. The story lends itself to a hilarious romantic comedy, for sure, and I can see it translating well to the big screen. It’s just fun!

Anyone looking for a quick, offbeat and interesting read should look no further than Textual Healing. It was the bold cover that first attracted me to this book celebrating love and the written word . . . and it was the unconventional population of Smith’s novel that kept me reading.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0345497961 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author in exchange for my honest review