This newly translated German bestseller is a warmhearted, occasionally sentimental account of letting go of the old loves to make room for new.
Parisian bookseller Jean Perdu has lived in a time capsule of his own grief. Twenty-one years ago, his lover, Manon, left, leaving behind only a letter to explain herself—which Jean never opened. Ever since, Jean has devoted his life to his floating bookstore, the Literary Apothecary, a barge docked on the Seine. He can diagnose a shopper's ills (ennui, disappointment, a range of fears) and select the correct literary remedy. When heartbroken Catherine moves into his building, Jean brings her an old table and a stack of books to cure her crying. In the table Catherine finds Manon's unopened letter and demands Jean read it, or she will. The two fall into kissing, and Jean, buoyed by Catherine, finally reads Manon's letter, but the truth is heartbreaking. Manon returned to her home in Provence (and her husband—it was complicated) to succumb to the cancer she had been hiding. Her last request was for Jean to visit before she died. Jean, overwhelmed by news of her death, his tragic error, his wasted life pining for a dead woman, lifts the Literary Apothecary's anchor to finally make the journey to Manon. Stowed away is his neighbor Max, a young novelist running away from his fame. The two navigate the canals of France selling books for food, engaging in adventures small and large, all against the backdrop of quaint villages and bittersweet memories. They take on some passengers: a roguish Italian who has been searching the waterways for his long-lost sweetheart; and a renowned novelist. As Jean makes his way to Manon's home (all the while writing love letters to Catherine), he prepares to ask for forgiveness—from the memory of Manon, from her husband, and from himself.
A charming novel that believes in the healing properties of fiction, romance, and a summer in the south of France.