Published: June 23, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Translation)
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.
After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.
First off, I now need to take a vacation cruising the canals of France. There are a few different ways you can take this book and one is a travel novel--and it is quite successful in that. Trust me, you'll feel like you are cruising along with Monsieur Perdu and his friends.
Tben, of course, there is the food. One of the characters is a chef and the dishes he whips up will make your mouth water (and recipes are included if you want to try them yourself!). I appreciated that the recipes were in an appendix to the book instead of sprinkled throughout, which seems to the be the style in so many books these days.
Of course, the heart of this book is not travel or food, but literature. Like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (a book I was reading when I started this one), this is a truly bookish book. While I think anyone would enjoy this book, book lovers would truly "get it." We bookish folk understand that books can be a salve for what ails us, that can treat conditions that medicine can't touch. In short, we get Monsieur Perdu.
I loved the writing style--I'm assuming a translator was involved, but I couldn't find who that might be with my electronic copy. However, it could be that the author translated her own work--I really don't know and haven't been able to figure out. In any case, I will say that this book does not read like a translation. The prose is poetic and flows nicely. There is also (and unsurprisingly) what I would consider a "European flair" about it. By that, I mean that it is a little more dramatic and emotional than I recall ever reading in a North American author, but I have read similar prose from European authors. This is not a bad thing by any means--it simply adds to flavor of this novel.
The plot moves fairly steadily, although there are a few times when George seems to get stuck on one point or another. I'm more forgiving about this in translations because, unless you read the work in its original language, you can't really be sure if this is due to the author or the translator. Still, the book kept me interested from the first page to the last.
Another minor--and I do mean minor--gripe I have is that the title of the book doesn't represent the actual story. Monsieur Perdu's "bookshop" is never called as such--it is referred to as a barge or as the Literary Apothecary--and it spends very little of the book in Paris and doesn't really have any ties to the city. I can't knock George for this as the publisher frequently assigns the title (especially in translations), but the title just isn't the best.
While I would recommend this book to anyone, I would especially recommend it to my book loving friends. And my France-loving friends. And my travel-loving friends. And my food-loving friends.
I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.