This week a friend of mine posted a question to Facebook, asking what the first thing we would like to do is when the quarantine is over might be? I’m notoriously bad about responding to such things, but it did make me think. I know that I want to go out with friends and eat food that I haven’t cooked, whilst enjoying some wine that I don’t feel guilty about drinking, because I’m no longer doing so on my own. I want to ‘throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care’ and dance away to some 80s and 90s music with those same friends, but after that, when the social part of me is sated again, I want to go to a bookshop. Yes, I want to visit my local bookshop and just browse the shelves and pick up books that I fancy reading and yes, probably leave with a bag of stuff that it will take me months to get through.
I think maybe it’s because of how much time I enjoy spending in bookstores, that I finally bought myself a copy of The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. Yes, I did buy it from my local store, which is currently offering curbside collection (thank heavens!). I’d looked at it on the shelves a number of times over the last couple of years, but I hadn’t ever purchased it. I do like the cover, which we know is important, but I thought the title was terribly twee. Cutesy and sweet. It suggested to me that the book would be saccharin which, low and behold during a pandemic, is not something I care about. I purchased it because I wanted to read a book about bookstores and because I hoped that it would make me feel good, and you know what? It did. However the real shocker was that this is a seriously good and thought provoking novel about moving on, which as you know is something that I’m dealing with currently.
Jean Perdu loved Manon with a passion. When it ended, not very long after it started, he locked his memories and himself away. He became a literary apothecary, administering books to his customers, from his book barge on the banks on the Seine, just like a pharmacist administers medicines. Perdu can look at a customer, ask a couple of questions to determine their literary needs. One day, after uncovering a letter written by Manon twenty years previously, he starts the engine of the boat and leaves his mooring, taking two cats and a best selling novelist. So begins an adventure of self discovery conducted along the canals of France, with so much humor, heart and character that you are genuinely going to laugh and cry.
When I was reading this book The Daughter came up to me and told me that I was smiling whenever I picked up The Little Paris Bookshop. She’s 15 and not big on noticing what her mother is doing, but that’s the power of this story. It’s inescapably lovely and optimistic, just like The Keeper of Lost Things, which I reviewed last week. If you read these two books on the trot, maybe you like me, can keep your sanity and your happiness in these trying times.