The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George should have been a novel I loved since it’s about two of my favorite things according to the title, Paris and books, but I found it trite and long. The title is deceiving as the story only partially takes place in Paris and the “little” “bookshop” is actually a barge/boat. I think The French Bookbarge would have been more aptly titled, but probably less appealing.
The Little Paris Bookshop is primarily the story of Jean Perdu, a man in his 50s who owns a book barge and reportedly can read people’s souls and recommend what they should read based upon that. That premise was hard enough to swallow, but then add in that Perdu has been avoiding feeling and experiencing emotions since the lost of his great love 21 years earlier. Eventually, Perdu is forced to face the loss of that love and to chase down his own feelings through a grand adventure through France on his book barge.
Accompanying Perdu on this voyage is the annoying uber popular author, Max Jordan who irritatingly wears earmuffs (in summer) throughout the first part of the story and then ditches them with one sentence. Perdu and Max meet many characters and have many adventures – a fawn dying in the river, a woman jumping in, running from angry husbands after being caught tangoing with their wives – en route to Provence. Yet even when they get to Provence, it goes on. Perdu is still unable to face his loss, which was exasperating. There are several scenes of Perdu or Max or another male character expressing emotions which I appreciated, but it all felt so false.
This was a novel about being out of tune with your emotions and needing to become in tune in order to live fully, but within each character there were so many contradictions, I could not even enjoy the flowery descriptions of the French countryside or food.
The Little Paris Bookshop seemed to aspire to be in the vain of Joanne Harris, trying to mix in the mystical with the literary, but for me it fell far short.