Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Summary: The Little Paris Bookshop is a delightful, bittersweet tale about the distance one man will travel for love and friendship – On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop, or rather a literacy apothecary, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers…
I have not touched a storybook in so long or found solace in one for over a month. Life happened. And the words just seemed to slide off the page when I read the books.
But I was intrigued by the idea of books being used as emotional medicine. As a creative writing student, I have been caught up in the whirlwind of ‘write to engage your reader’ and ‘not interesting enough – boring’. I forgot that I was writing to capture specific details for specific people even if there is only one other person out there who needs it.
The Little Paris Bookshop pulled this off cleverly with a main character who knows how to help others although he himself is being consumed by his own sorrow. The story charts his own emotional voyage with his barge of books and his battle with love, friendship and pain.
My favourite passage of the book is this:
“Pain, for example, he said: it reserves the polarity of cells. It starts after only three days: arousal cells become pain cells, sensory cells become fear cells, coordination cells become pin-cushions. Eventually tenderness only causes hurt; every breeze, every musical vibration, every approaching shadow triggers fear. And pain feeds hungrily on every movement and every muscle, breeding millions of new pain receptors. Your insides are completely transformed and replaced, but it is invisible from the outside.
By the end you want no one ever to touch you again, Vijaya says. You grow lonely.
Pain is a cancer of the soul, says your oldest friend. He says it like a scientist; he doesn’t consider hte nausea such words will trigger in non-scientists. He is foretelling everything that will happen to me.
Pain makes the body dull and your mind with it, as your Vijaya knows. You forget; you can no longer think logically, only in panic. And all your healthy thoughts fall into the furrows the pain gouges into your brain. All your hopes. Eventually you too fall in and are gone, your entire self swallowed up by pain and panic.“
The way Nina George describes these little details, emotions, the breeze, the atmosphere – it settles over you like a comforting blanket. I have forgotten that I need books to survive. I forgot because I hated the way I read in order to feel better. In order to come to terms with this very subject in the passage I quoted. Pain.
Yes, books do soothe the troubled soul. I am addicted to this medicine. It’s good to be back, it’s good to inhale words so that I can breathe them out again.