“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…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’s how I sell books.”
I was intrigued when I heard about this book. I love Paris. I love reading, and the idea of books which are basically chicken soup for the soul appealed to me, since like all good bookworms in times of trouble I often turn to books. The reality though was something quite different. In reality this belongs to a sub-genre of book that seems to have increased in recent years…chick lit for bookworms. You know the kind of book I mean. It’s a romance story with a few literary references thrown in to appeal to bookish people. Think The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, or First Impressions or The Storied Life of A.J Fikry.
The Storied Life of A.J Fikry is a particularly good example as this book definitely falls into the same mould. Weird loner who lost his wife/partner, runs a bookshop and has taken refuge in the world of books with little attempt to connect with people in order to avoid dealing with how he feels/be hurt again. That would pretty much sum up the protagonists of both books. However overall I’d have to say this was less well executed then The Storied Life of A.J Fikry . It was a sweet story but too predictable. I mean come on, it’s a love story set in France, and primarily in Paris. To call it a cliche, would in itself be a cliche. The characters lacked any real depth beyond who they were meant to be within the confines of the story. And the basic idea, a literary pharmacy, while an interesting one and what attracted me to the book in the first place, got lost in the love story becoming nothing more than a quirky back drop. It is a pity it wasn’t explored more. There was something there that good have been very original.
Then there is the writing. Overall it was grand. There was a nice lyrical feel to it that suited the story but every so often there is the feeling that the author was setting out to shock the reader with a sex scene. Sex scene’s are hard to write. There’s a reason many authors leave them as implied rather than describing them. Almost no one can do them well. Nina George however tries to tackle them. Instead of writing them in the same lyrical style as the rest of the book, she throws in words with jar with the flow of the narrative and are clearly designed to shock the reader. Like cock! It’s use doesn’t fit with the language of the book and made me feel like I was reading an E.L James book, except in the 50 Shades books that kind of language works. It does not work when coming out of the mouth of a middle age, middle class repressed bookshop owner from Paris. If you are going to write about sex, you’ve got to write it well or don’t write it at all.
This is not a great book. It’s a book which sounds better than it is, and has been marketed to appeal to book lovers yet the element which would appeal to a book lover (the literary pharmacy) is quickly forgotten about. And honestly there are better book themed chick lit books out there, like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or The Storied Life of A.J Fikry. However if you are stuck for something to read by the pool on holiday or just your brain needs a break from reading loads of heavy books (which mine did at the time) then it ticks that box just fine. You’ll read it, enjoy it and then forget about it quickly after. A sweet but forgettable book.