Nina George is a prize-winning and bestselling author and journalist, who has published 26 novels, mysteries and thrillers, as well as over one hundred short stories and more than 600 newspaper columns.
‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ was published in German as ‘Das Lavendelzimmer’ on May 2, 2013. It has been translated into 33 languages and ranked among the top ten novels on Spiegel Magazine’s bestseller list for fiction since May 2013.
I am not sure what I expected from this book when I picked it up to read, but it certainly wasn’t anything like I imagined it would be.
The book follows the story of Jean Perdu, a bookseller, who has a barge on the Seine from which he sells books to help heal people’s emotions. He is able to tell what kind of book a person needs. Jean, however, has his own heartbreak, one he has been running from for 20 years. He his great love, a girl called Manon, and loved her for five years, but one day she left Paris to go back to Provence, leaving a letter for him. He imagined this was a letter telling him it was over, and he never opens it until one eventful day twenty years later. What he reads turns his life upside down, and he ends up taking his barge on a trip, somehow winding up with an assortment of passengers along the way.
The novel revolves around love and loss, about taking risks in order to really live. It has some very funny moments, lots of literary quotes and allusions, and beautifully descriptive passages with penetrating insights into how different characters think and feel and perceive reality.
Some people have loved this book while others have been unable to find a connection with it. It is fantastical at times, almost allegorical, and one does have to suspend belief in order to grasp its wider truth. It is a story about the senses, and about place – whether it is Provence or Paris – you can almost smell and hear these places. The book takes the reader on a journey – whether it is one you want to go on or not, you will need to read it and find out for yourself.