*I received this as an e-book ARC from Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review*
Jean Perdu is a 50 year-old man who runs a “literary apothecary” on a floating barge in the Seine River. Rather than just selling popular novels to whomever wants to buy them, Jean sells his customers the books they need in that exact moment. He explains it like this:
“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.”
For twenty years, as he treats the emotional afflictions of his customers, he can’t seem to treat the one that really matters; his own. Jean suffers from an all-consuming destructive grief over the loss of the great love of his life. Because of this, he forms no close relationships and deprives himself of the home, food, and creature comforts he loves. Eventually, after a sequence of events that I will not divulge here, Mr. Perdu hauls anchor on his barge and goes on a literal and metaphorical journey to heal himself. This book is about grief, sorrow, tragedy, and the power books and the human spirit possess to overcome them.
In case you couldn’t tell from my long-winded summary, I absolutely fell in love with this book. Only 5% in, I knew I was a goner. From the wonderful story line, to the absolutely beautiful prose-like language, reading The Little Paris Bookshop was like wrapping yourself up with a soft blanket straight out of the dryer. It fills you with such warmth and comfort as can only be found in the best of stories. As the novel unfolds, you not only grow to love Mr. Perdu and his wonderful and equally broken cast of friends, but you come to know and truly appreciate the healing power of books.
As if the actual story wasn’t enough, this book has the best epilogue I’ve ever read (and I’m a stickler for epilogues.) It tells you everything you want (or at this point NEED) to know, with the same beautiful prose and imagery that is prolific in the body of the novel. In addition to this, it contains recipes from the south of France that are talked about in the book, and, the cherry on top of this delectable desert is a reading list in which Mr. Perdu himself takes the readers as his patients and provides them with prescriptions for their emotional ills.
If there was ever such a thing as “the perfect book,” this is it. It is my Southern Lights. For me, it was exactly the right book at exactly the right time; although I suspect that any time for me would be the right time for this novel. The ONLY negative I can give is that I wish I spoke German so I could read all the books on Jean’s list!