There were a couple of reasons I was eagerly waiting for The Little Paris Bookshop to come out: 1) My European friends have read it before and liked it a lot (the book was originally published in German under the name of “Lavender Room” 2) It’s about a bookshop. So when I learned it is out in US, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
The plot (may contain some spoilers): Jean Perdu, 50 years old lives alone, true to his name ( perdu means “lost” in French). He is a very special kind of a bookseller- he sells the books that suit his customers’ emotional needs. He has a gift of guessing which book will help them or soothe them. He, himself is a very sensitive man, who for the past 20 years was distancing himself from friends and potential lovers because of a woman that left him abruptly. He helps out his new neighbor. By doing that he uncovers a letter from the past that will lead him to the quest for closure. He travels on board of his barge/bookstore down the canals of France with two chance companions. It’s a journey of self-discovery that has a profound message in the end. Ultimately it’s a love story, but not simply love for a woman, but rather love for life.
My impressions: The first half of the book was very difficult to get through, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that it’s a mix between Joan Harris’ France (which I love) and Muriel Barbery’s prose (I was probably the only person who disliked The Elegance of the Hedgehog). Plus the translation was a bit patchy here and there– occasional weird choice of vocabulary or a chunky sentence threw me off. But the second half I gulped in a few hours and thoroughly enjoyed it. The descriptions of France’s regions were lovely, the characters got more developed and opened up, the story progressed in a smoother way and translation was ironed out more. I loved the seaside descriptions, it made me miss the summers at the beach so much. The story was not without cliches, but overall it was engaging. It’s a good summer read. I appreciated the map in the beginning of the book, and recipes in the end. I am grateful for the list of books mentioned in the story, although those I’m most interested in aren’t published in English (will try to hunt some down in languages I can read). The fictional books mentioned in the story seemed so interesting, I was actually disappointed to see they are made up. The cover is pretty, although a bit deceiving as there is very little of Paris in the book. (I actually prefer Polish edition cover) The excerpt can be found here .
3 stars (ok, 3 1/2), not full 4 only because of the first half.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review