Publication Year: 2013
Length: 370 pages (paperback) with another 46 pages of recipes/extras
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own?
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.
After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.
Review (No Spoilers!!)
I sat for about 20 minutes after I finished this book, contemplating what I wanted to rate it and how I wanted to go about writing this review. Part of me wants to give this book 2 stars, another part of me wants to give it 5 stars…I settled on 3 finally, since it’s nicely in the middle, but I have many, many thoughts on this book.
The main reason I wanted to give this book a 2 was because of the way I describe a 2 in my rating system: “Ok, and maybe other people like it, but it’s really not for me.” And that’s true. But the thing is, this book could be for me. I think I could love this book so, so much, if only I read it at a different time in my life.
As I learned from Jean Perdu, a master literary pharmacist of emotions, different books should be read by different people at different times in their lives. He even so much as refuses to sell books that he thinks would be bad for a customer to read, based on their emotions and stage in life. And honestly, I wish that someone had done that for me when it came to The Little Paris Bookshop.
If I’m being honest, I was bored throughout most of this book. The beginning started off about the way I expected, but then it slowed down for a while: There was a lot of exposition and description of Perdu’s thoughts and feelings, and I really just wanted it to pick up the pace. It did, when he finally set off with his boat and Max Jordan, a blocked-up writer, but then it slowed down again. They didn’t go on any crazy adventures, and there was still SO MUCH DESCRIPTION of everything from the birds they saw to every little town and boat they floated past, and many recountings of different memories Perdu had of his lost lover, Manon.
Speaking of Manon, I was not a fan. The books lets you get to know her through her travel diary and Perdu’s recollection of her, and honestly, I hated her. There’s a lot about this book that I think could be redeemable if I read it at a different stage in life, which I explain below, but I’m pretty sure my hatred of Manon wouldn’t change. She glorified infidelity in her travel diary and in her relationship to Perdu and just seemed selfish and flighty and like the kind of girl that I see in college that drives me crazy all the time. If she went to my college, she’d be one of the girls you see at the bars every Friday going “It’s fine if I cheat on my boyfriend with a frat guy, I’m in college and living my life without a guy controlling me; this is what I’m supposed to do.” Like yes, go be a strong independent woman, but don’t cheat on your boyfriend/husband to do it. Perdu honestly deserved better than her, and that was also a bit annoying to read.
The ending of this book did pick up a little bit. It didn’t become more exciting, per say, but it was a heart-warming ending, and after spending so long hearing about Perdu’s inner turmoil, I found myself just rooting him on for the last 70 pages, hoping he could make peace with everything that happened throughout the novel and in his past.
However, what bored me about this book is exactly what makes it such a great book if I were at a different stage in life. I don’t want to put spoilers in any of my reviews so I won’t explain why, but essentially, Perdu is a broken man, suffering from grief, mourning, lovesickness, and a whole host of other negative feelings that he’s kept pent up for 21 years.
I was not expecting that kind of heaviness in this book, especially based on the colorful cover and the description that seems a bit adventurous and fun. This book is not an adventure book or a fun, light summer read. It’s a book about a man going through a long, arduous healing process and finding himself again. It’s a very in-depth look at Perdu’s emotions, and at a whole host of powerful, often unwelcome feelings people experience throughout life, like grief. I, as a 19-year-old girl with a relatively good life right now, am not experiencing anything like that at the moment. I’m not reeling from the loss of anyone close to me; from a break-up or illness or the death of a loved one. Perdu’s internal journey was not one that I could really relate to at this point in time, which is why the heaviness of the book’s themes seemed a bit boring or tedious to me at times. Of course, I was still touched by his story, and the ending did make me want to tear up at parts, but I wasn’t moved by this book.
However, at the right stage of my life, maybe when I’m older or times are harder or I’m experiencing overwhelming grief, I think this is definitely a book I would come back to for solace and comfort. I think it could be a useful tool in the healing process for some tough times, especially in dealing with death.
One really random thing that I liked about this book was that there are about 46 pages of extras in the back, including classic French recipes the characters eat throughout the novel, and George’s own list of books to heal certain emotions. I thought that was really cool, and thought it added a little bit to the book (I really want to try to recipe for Lavender Ice Cream. It looks so good).
Overall, I would say that this book was not for me at this stage in my life, but it’s something I would reread much later on in life and presumably like more. Thus, I don’t recommend this book to anyone who isn’t going through something difficult right now, but I’d say to give it a shot if you’re in need of some emotional support in dealing with grief or sorrow. If I owned a literary apothecary like Jean Perdu, it’s definitely what I would prescribe.
Rating: 3 Stars
If you’ve read this book before (or haven’t, but want to get involved anyway) and want to discuss something I didn’t mention in my review, please leave a comment below! I’m always up for a good book discussion.
Edit (July 2017):
The more and more that I think back on this book, the more I hated it. I changed my rating to a 2 on Goodreads recently, just because after looking at other books that I gave a 3 rating to, I don’t think this book deserves to share that rating. I’ll leave my initial review intact, but in my mind, I’m going to now consider this book a 2.