Jean Perdu is a soul reader, he sees your deepest pains and does out books like medication. On his small boat dubbed the Literary Apothecary. The landed barge houses hundreds of books, and he will find the one to help you. He can clearly see what everyone needs and get it for them… everyone except himself. Twenty odd years ago the only woman he ever loved left him. In his anger the sealed off the room, and himself. His pain and anger is ever present and all he can do is distract himself through the days with his books, cats, and puzzles.
In an attempt to help a new neighbor he unseals the forgotten room and takes out the table. Without thinking he gives the table to Catherine, newly divorced and starting her life over. He also finds several books, to help the tears flow and get her healed. When Catherine contacts him about the letter found in the table’s drawer, he is floored by memories. He had never opened Manon’s last letter- had never cared to hear why she was leaving him. Now, though, Catherine insists upon it. Maybe it is time.
Manon was dying. She left him, wanting him to come to her and her husband. For the two loves of her life to see her through the final stages. Pain eats at Jean. All these years cursing her, and he had been the one to desert her. Unable to handle this, he goes to his floating bookshop and hoists anchor. He has to go to her… even if she’s no longer there. His neighbor Max, a best-selling author hiding away, jumps aboard at the last minute and the two make their getaway from Paris.
Along their way the two grow close as they take care of Jean’s cats and barter books for food and goods. As far as Jean is concerned he has two goals. He must get to Manon and make amends, but he also wants to take this trip to discover who wrote the book that shaped him: Southern Lights. The more time Perdu spends on the river, the more he heals and the easier it is to think of his past love without pain. He is going through the hurting time, but already feels more alive. An old chef joins their adventure as they move along; then a woman that they think they rescued from a suicide attempt.
This book took me for a wild ride. I loved the play between these strong, damaged characters and the flow of the book, like a barge gliding along the river. I loved that I could feel their joy and pain, and laugh with them as they fought through the absurdity of some of their problems.
More than anything else, I loved the word play and exchange between characters that could range from the comically ridiculous to soul crushing and back again. I want to share just a few of my favorite quotes.
- …”I can only breathe if I read, Perdu”. This is said to Perdu by a waiter friend and customer. I feel this deeply, all my life books have been my safety net and salvation. I am not whole without a world to jump into. It makes me edgy and disconcerted. I can’t breathe…
- Perdu and his father talking on one of their normal Sundays:
- …”Women and horses have a lot in common. Would you like to know what?”
“Fine. Well, if a horse refuses, you’ve phrased your question wrongly. It’s the same with women. Don’t ask them: ‘Shall we go out to dinner?’ Ask: ‘What can I cook for you?’ Can she say no to that? No she cannot.”
- “I think I learned all my feelings from books. In them I loved and laughed and found out more than in my whole nonreading life.” Catherine to Perdu.
- Whenever Monsieur Perdu looked at a book, he did not see it purely in terms of a story, minimum retail price and an essential balm for the soul; he saw freedom on wings of paper.
This book is out now- go get it!
On the adult content scale I give it a three. Language and sexual content.
Links to book: