Novel set on a canal boat in FRANCE
- Book: The Little Paris Bookshop
- Location: Paris, Provence
- Author: Nina George
As if any reader needed telling that books and reading books are good for the soul! This is just one of the premises at the heart of this delightful novel. We join Monsieur Jean Perdu aboard his canal boat – his peniche – the Literary Apothecary, moored on the Seine. People visit him from far and wide to soothe their troubles through his recommended reads. He has the uncanny knack of finding a book that will hit the nail on the head for each of his visitors…
“… a book is both medic and medicine at once.It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that is how I sell books.”
In his own history however, he struggles with what appeared to be a doomed love affair, that ended a couple of decades ago. We meet him just as he is contemplating a relationship with a woman in his apartment block, Catherine. But a letter which has been lying unread for many years suddenly catches his eye and he discovers that his ‘truth’ of the ending of the affair was way off the mark. Oh, the remorse, the guilt and shame, how can he atone? The range of emotions overwhelms him and he feels the only option open to him is to set off towards Provence in the footsteps of his great love. Just as he leaves, famous author Max Jordan leaps aboard the boat and both set off on their heady adventure along the French waterways, in the company of Kafka and Lindgren, two cats who have snaffled themselves on board for the voyage south.
Navigating their way out of Paris is a test for these amateur sailors, but soon they are gliding past scenes of French delights, châteaux, rolling terrains, and passing other similar vessels with all manner of crews. They stop, they eat, they meet people. They ruminate. And ponder the nature of life and where their little boat is taking them. They travel on through Montargis where the praline was invented, and gradually there is a burgeoning focus on food as the mood lifts and the boat heads ever further south on its journey, the Saône and Loire, and on to Sanary, where Perdu finally settles. Catherine intimates she would like to join him, as the sun sets on this little journey of the soul, a truly enchanting and moving read. As the journey progresses, there is a marked parallel with the charted stages of mourning and loss until finally, acceptance is reached at the destination, and life and love can resume…
A dreamy yet philosophical and thought-provoking narrative with a superb translation by Simon Pare.
This review first appeared on our blog, where we feature a revealing interview with the author