The Little Paris Bookshop
Crown, 2015. 400 pgs. Fiction.
Jean Perdu is lost. Twenty years ago, the love of his life left him without warning, and ever since, Jean has avoided relationships of any kind. He runs The Literary Apothecary, a barge bookshop on the Seine where he recommends books based on the emotions of his customers. He can’t seem to face or heal his own pain, however. After a new neighbor convinces him to finally read the letter left by his love, Jean sets sail down the river. Joined by an insecure but bestselling author, a lovelorn Italian chef, and two cats, Jean finds peace as he journeys from Paris to Provence.
This international bestseller was a pleasant read that occasionally surprised me with its poignancy. A few passages really resonated with me, including one where two characters discuss sensory memories and grief. The cast of characters was charmingly quirky, and I was pleased with the way everything wrapped up, even if some readers might feel that all the loose ends are too neatly tied up. I will warn that the story is slow and meandering; many readers will love it, while others might find it silly or boring. For me, the writing and the story weren’t perfect, but they were enjoyable. It was a good escapist read.
I listened to the audio version recorded by Ray Sawyer and overall felt like it was a decent audio pick. The author includes a lot of asides and flashbacks, so in audio format I sometimes had trouble figuring out what was going on. I was also initially confused whenever Manon talked about her mother, since Manon and Maman sound quite similar when spoken aloud. I enjoyed Sawyer’s reading, however. He reads narrative in his own British accent, but does a nice job using accents and distinctive voices to identify each character.