Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Little Paris Bookshop By Nina George

Let me be honest. I picked this book from the new arrivals shelf at the library mainly for one reason. That the full name of the author very much resembles names originating out of my birthplace. But by the time I checked it out I knew that this author is not a native or non-native Malayali . But a book with 'bookshop' in the title just had to be a delightful read. Not only were my expectations met but were exceeded by the end of the delightful journey that was this book. Nina George wrote the book in German although the story takes place in France.

George's adoration of books and love of reading spills out from every page as she takes us through the life of the leading man Monsieur Perdu. He is, wait for it..  a book seller at the aptly named  shop 'Literary Apothecary'! I am telling you there is not much to dislike here.  Perdu is the self appointed physician offering sure footed advise on what books each of his customers need to buy regardless of what they actually came in for. Wouldn't I have loved to be a customer there! There is more. He sells the books from a converted barge moored on the Seine. He keeps the vessel serviced so it is still seaworthy despite its static state. While prescribing ably for his customers Perdu is unable to mend his own wounded heart. He is besieged with memories of beautiful Manon. She had stormed into his life from Provencal France, ruled it for a while and then just left one day without notice. The bookshop with its loyal clientele and the occasional tourist kept him going. After twenty such long years, he meets sweet Catherine who is nursing a recently wounded heart and of course Perdu is there for the rescue with a perfect selection of books. This change prompts him to set off on a journey that will bring closure with Manon.

Perdu travels down the Seine on the now unmoored barge, deftly navigating its many canals and tributaries. He found some unlikely companions in this impromptu journey. Two cats named Kafka and Lindgren who used to frequent his shop and the young successful author Max Jordan who is suffering  from a severe case of writer's block. Later on they are joined by an old Italian friend of Perdu who helps them negotiate some of the practicalities of river travel. It helps that this friend also enjoys cooking. At Avignon he hands off the barge to the friend and goes on foot with Max in search of Manon among the vineyards of Bonnieux. Along with the cast of characters described so far, what ups the ante of this charming book are the ubiquitous books and lengthy discussions on various books. Perdu himself would love to write a book one day. A book of emotions that are neatly organized under each alphabet. Such a great journey to have had! There is even a section for delicious french recipes at the end of the book. If you liked 'The Book Thief', chances are that you will like this one too.