As soon as I saw the cover and the words Paris and Bookshop – I knew I had to read this book. It seemed like just the kind of charming and romantic story I usually love so I was excited to delve in.
On a barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop, or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possess a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe his customers’ troubled souls.
The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. For twenty-one years he has nursed a broken heart – and never dared open the letter his love left behind. But the arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.
“Books are more than doctors, of course. Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you’ve got those autumn blues. And some…well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful voice. Like a short, torrid love affair.”
This book was like a warm cup of hot chocolate on a rainy day, simply put it warmed me and left me deeply contented. If the many literary references and the beautiful setting wasn’t enough, the story has some great characters with some really wholesome friendships.
The story follows Jean Perdu, a lovelorn man in his 50’s who has never quite managed to get over the love of his life, Manon who left him twenty years prior. Since she left him, he has resorted to living as a shadow of his former self, in the same monotonous routine of work, eat and sleep. He refuses to think about Manon too long as he finds it too painful and he would rather suppress his emotions.
The only joy in Jeans life however, is his work on the Literary Apothecary – a houseboat which also serves as a bookshop. On the boat he prescribes books like medicine depending on what the reader needs. I loved the whole concept of a ‘literary apothecary’, I mean how amazing would that be? He manages to offer the book a reader needs the most – whether they’re going through a tough breakup, need a good recipe or are just searching for a decent thriller, he has a book for any ailment.
- Setting – From the cute corners of Paris including Rue Montegard where Perdu lives, in an apartment building with a whole host of eccentric but loveable characters. To the picteresque waterways of France, it’s a really beautiful journey. My favourite part of the adventure Perdu finds himself on is when he visits the book town of Cuisery, the self titled book village. There are antique bookshops and literary enthusiasts galore which honestly sounds like a heaven on earth for book lovers.
- Characters + Friendships – One of my favourite things about this novel has to be the unlikely but truly heartwarming friendships that arise between the characters. When Perdu embarks on his adventure, he is joined by a young writer named Max who is trying to find inspiration for a second book. After travelling together Perdu and Max form such a sweet father – son relationship and confide their secrets and dreams to each other. They help each other mourn for the past and move on in the present.
- Details – One extra little detail which I loved was the collection of recipes and Perdus own literary apothecary at the end of the novel. I will definitely be consulting it soon perhaps to find my next few reads.
- Melancholy but hopeful message – There’s something deeply beautiful about the journey the characters take both physically and emotionally within the story. The book deals with some important lessons about life and love and in some cases it’s sadly realistic. Not every story will have a fairytale ending but there is still beauty in remembering the good moments and finding joy wherever possible. Whether thats in a partner, a friend, or even in the company of a book.
The could be improved…
- Pacing – The first portion of the story does go a bit slower due to the whole ‘unread letter’ deal. Perdu has left Manons last letter to him unread…for TWENTY YEARS! I don’t know about you, but if it were me, I would have to know what was inside. I wouldn’t be able to leave it for that long at all! I feel like a lot of readers, myself included would find this a frustrating part of the plot which hinders it somewhat.
My favourite quotes:
“Perdu reflected that is was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books. They look after people.”
“Reading—an endless journey; a long, indeed never-ending journey that made one more temperate as well as more loving and kind.”
“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.”
Overall, this was exactly the type of cosy and charming story I needed. I tend to read quite a lot of thrillers and mysteries which can be quite taxing emotionally so it was nice to retreat into a sweet story like this one and go on a soothing trip along the rivers of France.
★★★★– 4 Star rating
Until next time,