In The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George, we, the reader, follow the journey of Jean Perdu, a 51-year-old bookseller from Paris. As the story opens, Jean is in the midst of a twenty year long period of grieving for the woman that got away. Quickly into the story, Jean discovered that the basis of his grieving is far more tragic than he imagined, setting off a series of choices that will take him and an unlikely companion on a memorable journey through the waterways of France.
A book review is an opinion of sorts, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. There have been books I loved, that others hated, and books I’ve hated that others have loved. As my mother says: “that’s why there’s vanilla and chocolate ice cream”. With that in mind, I really wanted to like this book. It’s about a floating bookstore in Paris, what’s not to like? Well, the book is what’s not to like, as in I didn’t.
What an absolutely ridiculous book! There are a lot of choppy transitions which left me confused at times as to whether the scene was taking place now, in the past, or in Jean’s imagination. The catalyst for Jean’s turmoil and the ultimate journey is the new tenant, Catherine’s, arrival to the apartment building, where jean lives. Their interaction and “relationship” seems so far-fetched and the intimacy felt forced, therefore the longing for Catherine that follows Jean throughout the book is persistently annoying. The copy I read is translated from the original German, so perhaps some things were lost in translation but I had more problems with the development of the plot than just the forced relationship between Jean and Catherine.
On a positive note, I did enjoy the developing father-son relationship between the older bookseller, Jean, and the younger hotshot novelist, Max, as they traveled the waterways on the floating bookshop. And I might have enjoyed the character of Sammy if it weren’t for the preposterous way she enters the story and the unlikely role that she plays. To be honest, I skimmed the last half of the book, because, after the deer drowning, I just could not take the ridiculousness anymore. I mean, what ridiculous purpose did it serve for there to be a random deer drowning halfway into the book?
While I always strive to give each book I read a fair chance, many books get better as the story progresses, this book is definitely one that I really wanted to throw away. Reading it felt like the author knew who the main character was and where he would end up, but then just wrote page fillers to get Jean to the finish line. In fact, you could carve out the entire middle section of the book and probably end up with a more tolerable story. I hope I am not being too harsh, I’m sure the author was passionate about the story she was telling, I just don’t think this book was written for me.