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The Little French Bistro: A Novel by Nina…

The Little French Bistro: A Novel

by Nina George

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Warning: Some spoilers

In the opening of The Little Paris Bookstore, Jean Perdu is being squeezed by two neighbors to donate a table for a new divorcee in need. The novel evolves into a physical and emotional journey to move on and start a new life. The opening scene is both poignant and humorous. Nina George’s new book, The Little French Bistro, revisits the theme but begins quite differently with Marianne Lanz suicidally jumping wham bam into the Seine. She, too, embarks on a journey. The first few pages reveal Marianne has had enough maltreatment from her husband, Lothar (imaginably short for Lothario or perhaps more appropriately spelled Loathar), and decides to end it all in a watery grave. Thanks to a good Samaritan, she is robbed of her death but not of opportunity. During her truncated hospital stay, Marianne happens upon a tile depicting a beautiful scene so evocative that she steals it and decides to visit the place before completing her suicide. She wends her way to Kerdruc, Brittany, considered the end of the earth by the French, only to find an opportunity to grow into a person rather than be defined as an emotionally abused wife.

The author clearly wants to stretch her narrative talents in a different way, so if you are looking for The Little Paris Bookstore redux, this isn’t it. At some points Bistro raises a valiant cry for emotional respect and a woman’s right to develop as an individual. But overall, the plot explores an unmanageable number of subplots, each drowning the other out (pardon the wet pun on Marianne’s behalf). There are at least seven other characters in various relationship situations, each worthy of more development. Characters deal with dementia, Parkinsons, sexual orientation, age, unrequited love, sex for sex’s sake, and more. Also add sexual harassment in the workplace. Too much has been packed in, so everything gets short shrift. Given the relatively slender number of pages compared, say, to Dickens or George Eliot, Nina George simply didn’t allow herself enough space to explore everything she intended. I enjoyed George’s first novel and found it well written; characters were developed, the plot stayed focused, and the themes fully examined. There are moments in Bistro when I thought I must have missed something previously. Character traits and plot non sequiturs pile on. A particularly irksome example occurs midway through the novel when a character pulls out an accordion. Turns out Marianne loves the accordion and plays it quite proficiently. There is no previous indication that Marianne played and had given up the instrument. It’s a weird development that doesn’t really help the plot or develop the character in a meaningful, timely manner. One or two such instances can be overlooked, but the novel is riddled with odd details, sudden introductions, and inexplicable actions. White witchery, Druidism, and Celtic lore are thrown in and could have been very interesting but mostly were embedded in openly didactic dialogue. Bistro is both underwhelming and overwhelming.

Particularly troubling about Bistro is the portrayal of male characters. One categorizes all women into three possible slots. Another cheats before he can even seal the deal with the supposed love of his life. As for Marianne’s husband, Lothar, he lacks any redeeming qualities. He is so despicably described throughout that one wonders at Marianne’s thinking, which rather undercuts any sympathy for her. She has to go through a second wakeup call late in the book because, evidently, the first that drove her to a suicide attempt wasn’t enough. Marianne makes many self-discoveries and has fully started a new life. The final quarter of the book places a real strain on the reader’s willingness to grant plausibility or stay invested. Marianne fails to recognize that Lothar has not changed despite some pretty significant signs jumping and waving in her face. At one point Marianne helps deliver a premature baby, as if there weren’t enough plot action already. Lothar decides this is the time to ask what he did wrong in their marriage and to insist on a serious discussion right then and there. He does not want to be put off, even as the baby’s head is popping from the cervix. Could there be more egocentrism and selfishness? Could there be more drama? And yet the novel goes on with more lows and some highs.

Maybe Bistro is meant to be read ironically, and I missed the signal. But, if you are looking for a fast, emotional roller coaster of a summer read, this is your book. I received a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review. ( )
1 vote ReadingFury | May 24, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Marianne wants to kill herself, tries to kill herself, but even her attempt at drowning in the Seine is a failure. Her suicide attempt gets her committed to a psychiatric hospital and it is there that she finds a painted tile of a beautiful seaside village: Kerdruc. Not knowing why, Marianne is convinced that she must travel to Kerdruc, to this place of beauty. She escapes from the hospital and makes her way to the Brittany coast, to the town of Kerdruc with the intention of ending her life there. However, life decides that it has much more in store for the lost Marianne. She "accidentally" gets a job at a little bistro and slowly begins to find a life and also discover that she never really had one before. But, this new life will not come without challenges, for Marianne has a secret that she has told no one...she not only left behind the psychiatric hospital, she left behind her faithless husband, who is now searching for her. In the end, Marianne alone must decide who she really is and which part of her self will she become after her awakening in the little town of Kerdruc.

This was a very interesting book and I enjoyed reading it. I loved learning about Brittany and it's customs. I believe this author wrote another book, The Little Paris Bookshop, that I may just pick up and read also! Thank you LibraryThing and Crown Publishing for the wonderful book! ( )
  chrirob | May 23, 2017 |
There is a Catch-22 to have written a book as lovely and charming as The Little Paris Bookshop. On the one hand, folks will line up for your next novel. On the other, it's nearly impossible to meet expectations. The Little French Bistro would certainly fade in a head to head matchup with George's earlier work, but take the expectations off the table and you have a lovely novel that is a fabulous way to while away a few summer hours. The Little French Bistro has some elements of the works of Fredrik Bachman, Graame Simsion, and Jonas Karlsson and readers of those authors are sure to enjoy picking up this book.

I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
  Well-ReadNeck | May 22, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I hadn't quite realised this was going to begin on such an emotional footing of despair, as finding the lead character Marianne quite bereft and overcome by anguish was quite a startling opener! You can feel her emotional spiral - of a woman who is long past her emotional layers of tolerating life as it’s lived whilst enduring the hardships which have befallen her in life. She’s at the very edge of what she can handle; thus, expressed by Ms George in layering how she alights Marianne into the scene at the water’s edge. A woman quite undone and without even a glimmer of Hope left inside her to see the coming of the next tomorrow. The opening sequence is truly gutting to get through as you wish Marianne could realise what she still has and in some ways, still find a reason to see why living is the best alternative to her current mindset.

Except of course, she’s trapped in a marriage where her husband does not see her on equal ground nor encourages her to be independent. He wants her to be passive and to do as he says without her minding the absence of her own inclinations of how to live her hours independent of his presence. I didn’t like him at all, even in the span of the opening chapters because he’s a hardened man who doesn’t quite appreciate his wife or what she does for him but rather comes off a bit entitled. In regards to Marianne, her attempt to end her life as a plea of change; of trying to own an action of hers outside of her marriage and to effectively change what was happening if only to end it all in one stroke of action she could honestly control herself.

The issue for me is that I wasn’t finding myself pulled into this novel as I had with the novel I previously read of Ms George. If anything, I found the whole drama a bit too depressing to be interesting and I was not invested to read more of it as each new paragraph felt weighted down more than previous one; to where I could not envision how this story turns around at all. I might have exited it too quickly to find the rhythm of what enthralled me originally inside The Little Paris Bookshop; however, for me personally, I ached for this to have started differently. I think if there had been a Prologue which had flashed back to that day on the Seine and then moved quickly into where Marianne is living and working at the restaurant, perhaps I would have felt attached to her story-line. Instead, I honestly felt pulled under the depressive opener and did not feel entirely moved to know more of her story as I could not find a connection to Marianne at all.

Acquired Book By: LibraryThing Early Reviewer programme: I received a complimentary ARC copy in exchange for my honest review on LibraryThing from the publisher Crown Publishing (an imprint of Penguin Random House). The Little French Bistro was amongst the offerings for March 2017 and I received my copy in April 2017. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. ( )
  joriestory | May 22, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This novel was originally published in Germany in 2010. It is advertised as from the bestselling author of "The Little Paris Bookshop", but I believe that it was written previously. That said, I did find it a very enjoyable read. It has a definite sense of place and dazzling prose. So many enjoyable characters, many of whom I would have followed into their own story. This book brought to mind another author's interview "aware that inside every person is a universe, and that we'll never know what it feels like to be another person". A book of second chances, "what-ifs" and wonder of how we define ourselves and what strange things we take pride in. ( )
  MM_Jones | May 22, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nina Georgeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pare, SimonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was the first decision she had ever made on her own, the very first time she was able to determine the course of her life.
'You know the tragic thing about long life expectancy?' Paul asked, suddenly turning serious.  Everybody looked at him with expectation. 'You have more time to be unhappy.'
They said a lot when they weren't speaking; it was the silences between their words that touched Marianne.
'He's in love, and when they're in love, cooks overdo it with the salt.'
They would all die: only stones and art were immortal.
The goddesses had demonstrated to her that life and death could take place within a single day, and sometimes it was impossible to distinguish between them.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451495586, Hardcover)

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Little Paris Bookshop, an extraordinary novel about self-discovery and new beginnings
Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage.  After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, also known as “the end of the world.” 
Here she meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable locals who surprise her with their warm welcome, and the natural ease they all seem to have, taking pleasure in life’s small moments. And, as the parts of herself she had long forgotten return to her in this new world, Marianne learns it’s never too late to begin the search for what life should have been all along.
With all the buoyant charm that made The Little Paris Bookshop a beloved bestseller, The Little Breton Bistro is a tale of second chances and a delightful embrace of the joys of life in France.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 09 Dec 2016 07:30:00 -0500)

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