by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Library
The Little Paris Bookshop
The bouquinistes of Paris are antiquarian booksellers who operate in stalls along the quays of the Seine River. They sell pre-used books, posters, post cards, buttons and other “petits riens” (little, antique doodads).
In Nina George’s novel The Little Paris Bookshop, Monsieur Perdu (translates: Mister Lost) is known as the apothecary of books. He has a gift for seeing the spiritual or practical afflictions that his customers suffer and hands them healing books. He sells his books and works his wonders from his barge anchored in the river Seine, and has an apartment in Paris. With all that Mr. Perdu is nevertheless sad. He is still heartsick for the woman who left him long ago.
Reading the opening chapters one settles in for the hard slog of a sensitive, depressive character, who can’t manage feelings, or reach out for help. But, no, Monsieur Perdu rescues himself, and the reader as well, by literally casting off. He disembarks and steers his book-laden barge down the river, and, ultimately, into the wondrous canal system of France. He makes friends with people who live on the canals, or alongside them, trades books for food and gas, and, of course, for wine. Along the way he picks up companions for his journey without a destination and they philosophize under the stars. But that’s not the end. The Little Paris Bookshop is, after all, a love story. You must read it to continue the mystical and compelling journey (jusqu’ au bout) to the end.
If a vacation floating down the canals of France is a candidate for your bucket list, this is your book. Or,if you simply enjoy spontaneous aimless wandering in unfamiliar places, The Little Paris Bookshop will whet your appetite for your next adventure.
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