written by: Savannah Johnson
The Little Paris Bookshop was originally released in Germany in 2013 under the title of Das Lavendelzimmer. Since then it has been translated into 35 different languages, with various recognitions such as, reaching Number 1 of the US Indie Bestsellers list, as well as becoming a New York Times Bestseller in 2015. This charming story follows the life of Monsieur Jean Perdu who calls himself a literary apothecary. In his floating bookshop in a barge on the Seine, he prides himself in being able to “prescribe” books for each reader. After quickly assessing the situation of a customer, he guides them to the precise book the reader needs as they need it. Perdu heals broken spirits and broken hearts. However, he cannot discover how to heal himself of a heartache that has lasted over 20 years, when he was left by his lover, Manon, with only a letter as a goodbye, one that he has never opened.
After Perdu is convinced to read the letter, he pulls up the anchor on his boat and sets out to the south of France to try and heal his broken heart and discover what the ending of his story may be. He picks up a couple companions along the way, one being a bestselling author with a serious case of writer’s block and the other, a lovesick Italian Chef. Through their journey, Perdu gives out wisdom as well as books; all the while the reader is discovering the past of Perdu and Manon’s relationship and how books can be a healing journey all on their own. The journey follows our characters through France, where the Author, Nina George, paints beautiful pictures of quaint villages and interesting characters, each with a journey of their own they long to come to discover.
The book overflows “French.” Landscapes, good and rich food, romantic stories, vineyards, gardens, flowers, smells, textures, coffee, baguettes, and deep conversations. Stories go back and forth anywhere from a pleasant memory of a summer long ago, to life, death, love, and the universe. These topics all stem from deep inside Perdu and who he is as a character, how he sees the world, and his ability to diagnose those in need of good literature.
“Kästner was one reason I called my book barge the Literary Apothecary,” said Perdu. “I wanted to treat feelings that are not recognized as afflictions and are never diagnosed by doctors. All those little feelings and emotions no therapist is interested in, because they are apparently too minor and intangible. The feeling that washes over you when another summer nears its end. Or when you recognize that you haven’t got your whole life left to find out where you belong. Or the slight sense of grief when a friendship doesn’t develop as you thought, and you have to continue your search for a lifelong companion. Or those birthday morning blues. Nostalgia for the air of your childhood. Things like that.”
As I was reading this and look back on it now, I feel as if this book was prescribed to me by Perdu himself. This book took me on a journey to a place I have never been, and so long to go to, but left me feeling as if I had really been there. It gave me the sense that I had walked those streets, watched those sunsets, and met those people. George has a beautiful way of taking abstract ideas and wording them in a way that you want to frame and hang on your wall. In one scene Perdu finds Max, the bestselling author with writers block, asleep on the couch, and notices him holding a book.
“Max had underlined certain sentences in pencil and jotted some questions in the margins; he had read the book as a book ought to be read. Reading—an endless journey; a long, indeed never-ending journey that made one more temperate as well as more loving and kind. Max had set out on that journey. With each book he would absorb more of the world, things and people.”
Just as Max underlined and penciled in his book, I did so with this one. I have never put so much of my own ink into a book before, but I simply could not stop underlining different things to come back to later or writing in questions I had no answer to. A review done by The Guardian states, “Each and every character is so unique, they really make the novel and make you want to continue to read ahead – but you know that, as Perdu preaches a few times in the novel, you have to take it slowly, delicately and breathe in every word and sentence. The novel itself appears to be a love letter to life, love and of course books, which I completely adore.” and I agree wholeheartedly.