Monday, 20 June 2016

Post 37: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

This is book 17 of 2016 and the third book completed in June.  For those eagle-eyed amongst you, yes I did indeed miscalculate in an earlier blog and was wildly out. My record in recent years is 34 in a year and so I am set to equal that...but my aim was 40, so I need to crack on. Just the 3.8 books per month as my target then...

Now I'm sure you'll agree that this book is pretty. The dust jacket rather enticed me as did the homely title.  Paris is also one of my favourite cities and the blurb noted that "a beautifully restored barge" moored on the banks of the Seine was the setting for this bookshop.  All rather seductive.  The premise: a bookseller who sells customers the books that they need, rather than those that they think they want, is also appealing.  Calling himself the "literary apothecary" Jean Perdu seeks to understand his customers and prescribe the novels that will speak to their souls.

All rather fanciful perhaps, but understandable to a bibliophile.  We know that novels are more than mere stories.  They have the power to make us laugh, to make us cry and to understand the world, and maybe ourselves a little better.

But I'm not sure that the book really succeeded in its aim.  The author writes in the Epilogue that the novel took three years to write and so I want to say that I loved it, but I didn't.  The storyline follows the bookseller after the reading of a letter left sealed for twenty years prompts him to make a spontaneous leap into the unknown.  For the first time in two decades, the barge is set free from its moorings and he goes on an adventure of self-discovery and healing.

Who hasn't imagined cutting the mooring ropes from their everyday lives once in a while? I can be found dreaming of turning away from suburbia and heading to the hills on a regular basis.  I peruse remote country areas on property websites and mentally move in to a farmhouse with garden, veg plot, chickens and, if I'm really lucky, a few sheep!  So the novel had all the ingredients for success...

And elements were effective.  There are odd lines here and there which strike a chord, (but none that stayed with me enough to quote...) and Nina George evokes the landscape as Perdu travels the canals from Paris to Provence. But it didn't work for me.

The plot is thin and the characters fail to convince.  Only Jean Perdu is in any way a rounded construction, and he is used as a vehicle for pop psychology. He goes on a literal journey in order to fulfil his metaphorical need to move on. Even his name is annoyingly obvious...perdu being the french for lost.  And there are random events, such as the drowning of a deer in the canal which seem to be symbolic but have no real cohesion with the rest of the book. Ditto a random tango class!

I could go on, but I won't.  I feel sad about writing a bad review, as I know that every book is a work of hours. In the interests of kindness however, I have included this link to a Guardian review that was wholeheartedly positive. Then you can make your own minds up!

So with apologies to the author, this is not on my recommend list....

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