I had a hankering for an adult book the other day, so I browsed our bestsellers. I picked up The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George because it sounded interesting. Jean Perdu is a literary apothecary. He listens to your soul and then prescribes the book that will cure you—of homesickness, a broken heart, insecurity, you name it. His problem is that he cannot prescribe for himself, and he’s a mess. When a twenty year old letter breaks open old wounds, he unmoors his barge bookshop and takes off down the river with a young author who’s tormented by success and writer’s block to try and find peace.
Poor Jean’s spartan existence is like a lid precariously covering a boiling pot of consuming grief and anger over the loss of a woman. The book follows his progress from a frozen-barely-there-existence to the new hope of spring. It’s about cowardice, and love, and grief, friendship and family. George uses lyrical prose to capture the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the French countryside as she slowly peels back the layers of Jean’s sorrow and anger. At one point, I got a little frustrated with Jean’s refusal to face his grief head-on, but then George took us to a new place, and necessary things happened, so I forgave her (and Jean). I found it interesting that Jean is so exceptionally good at giving others what they need, and so unwilling to face his own demons.
Any time that I have to keep pulling out my quote book to write something down from a book, it’s a pretty safe bet that I enjoyed it. I read one of the quotes to my co-workers in the break room, and they kindly laughed at me, calling me a sentimentalist.
I guess I am.
I love the idea of books finding homes in people’s hearts, of telling them the things that they need to hear, and giving them the impetus to change what they need to in their lives. I guess because it was true for me. I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and it changed so many things for me, even giving me the courage to finish writing a novel. I think it should be mandatory reading for every individual. But maybe that book’s not the one the whole world needs (I’m willing to argue the point). Maybe a literary apothecary could tell us.
In defense of sentimentality, I offer you one of the quotes I loved:
“All the love, all the dead, all the people we’ve known. They are the rivers that feed our sea of souls. If we refuse to remember them, that sea will dry up, too.”