Buddy Read: The Little Paris Bookshop
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2013, 392 pages
Over the years my sister and I have found that we often recommend books to each other but since we don't read them at the same time, it's hard to have satisfying discussions because one of us read it too long ago to remember quotes or details. So now, we planned ahead and picked a year's worth of Buddy Read books, 2 a month, so that we can enjoy talking about them together. The Little Paris Bookshop is the second one for October. We read Notes From a Young Black Chef earlier in the month. You can see our upcoming books and follow our progress on the Challenges tab at the top of the page - the first category is Buddy Reads 2020.
“Books are more than doctors, of course. Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you’ve got those autumn blues. And some…well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful void. Like a short, torrid love affair.”
This is an interesting book to review. The plot is fairly basic: a man in his 50s is running a "literary apothecary" of a bookshop in Paris from a barge on the Seine. He's become very reclusive because 20 years ago the love of his life left him suddenly and he's never recovered. Even though reclusive, he has this ability to quickly analyze a customer and recommend the perfect book they "need" at that time of their life, not necessarily what they want to read.
"Cuneo would often request stories by women authors. “Women tell you more about the world. Men only tell you about themselves.”
Through a series of unexpected circumstances (a new woman neighbor for one), he finds himself at odds with his life and feels the need to leave Paris on a quest of sorts. The quest, and his barge of a bookshop, take him on a quiet, wandering path along the rivers of France as he and a friend head steadily south. George does a good job of describing the visual differences, the scents, and even the foods of different sections of France.
I have mixed feelings about the book. I actually marked 20 quotes scattered throughout the book - there are some excellent, thought-provoking comments made. However, there is also lots of emotional angst. This is, after all, the story of a man whose lost the love of his life and then gave up his life for 20 years. There's sadness, anger, grief, disappointment, and then the shocking discovery that he's wasted his life. LOTS of time is spent dissecting his feelings about all that.....too much for me, I think.
"Habit is a vain and treacherous goddess. She lets nothing disrupt her rule. She smothers one desire after another: the desire to travel, the desire for a better job or a new love. She stops us from living as we would like, because habit prevents us from asking ourselves whether we continue to enjoy doing what we do."
I enjoyed the bookshop and his literary and bookish musings. I enjoyed his reflections on Paris and his customers. I enjoyed life traveling on the barge as he made a friend. I enjoyed the other side characters introduced....they were funny or insightful, and appealing. I guess I got tired of the introspection about his lost love. I didn't enjoy that much of the time the language is too ..... flowery, maybe? too overly descriptive? Something hard to define, but something that I found off-putting.
Reading Challenge: #PopSugar20 #5: set in city that hosted Olympics
What did you think, Donna?
I pretty much agree with Terrie. The Little Paris Bookshop was an ok book although it was hard to pin down why I didn't like it more. I also felt there was too much time moaning about his past love. And it was sad that he basically shut down his life because of it.
When it was suggested to Perdue, the bookseller, that he write a book, he responded:
I'd rather write an encyclopedia about common emotions. From A for 'Anxiety about picking up hitchhikers' to E for 'Early risers' smugness' through to Z for 'Zealous toe concealment, or the fear that the sight of your feet might destroy someone's love for you.'"
While playing a word game with a friend he's told, "We don't generally lie around for days wallowing in our happiness like roast beef in gravy, do we? Happiness is so short-lived. How long have you ever been genuinely happy in one stretch?" I liked the picture this painted.
Perdue finds new love in his life after shutting himself down for 20 years. And when he does, he has a realization.
A great wave of anger smashed over him. He showered insults on himself, crudely and desperately, with the wrath of a man who realizes, with terrifying clarity, that he has irrevocably wasted a part of his life, and the time remaining is all too short.
I think the central theme of the book is his loneliness, the way he shut himself off from people and intimacy and physical closeness. And then the overwhelming regret he felt. A lesson for us all.
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Have you read this book? Do you agree with our opinions? Have you read something else by Nina George that you like more, or less?