The Little French Bistro by Nina George
Published by: Crown
Publish Date: 2017
Genre(s): Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Magical Realism
HB&W Rating: 2
View on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
‘After all, it’s life that carries the greatest risk of death, so wouldn’t it better to do some living first?‘
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 French Bistro is a tale of second chances and a delightful embrace of the joys of life in France.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
No one accuses men of anything; it is the woman who bears the blame if he doesn’t love her, if she’s too weak to leave or if she has a child but no wedding ring. We are the sex that blames itself.
**********THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**********
I picked up this book originally because it was a good deal, courtesy of Barnes & Noble’s Bargain section, and because it took place in France, a country I’ve always loved. Plus, I wanted something easy and uplifting, which many blurbs and reviews for this book had promised.
The author’s writing was probably the best part of the book. Her way with words is admirable, and I could almost see, hear and smell the area of Brittany through her words. She also was, at times, very prosaic, which I appreciate as well. Her writing really brought the scene to life, but that’s probably the only redeeming feature of this book.
The underlying theme of the book is really about living your life on purpose, which, if you’ve been around here long enough, you will know I can get behind. And I do think that the author did a great job with this aspect as well. But as well as she wrote her setting, her theme, and her supporting characters, the main character of Marianne was just a serious let-down for me. It boggles my mind how a 60 year old woman, who presumably grew up in the 70s and 80s could be so annoying naive in her marriage. Now, I know I might catch flack for this…women will stay with men for a variety of reasons that are completely not their fault, abuse, manipulation, etc., and to be clear I am NOT talking about those cases. This is the case of a woman who is unhappy in her marriage, and did nothing about it for over 40 years. I mean, really? Setting aside her many talents that lead her to be able to deliver a baby, learn two foreign languages in a short span of time, and basically fix everything that is wrong for everyone in this town…the most unbelievable part for me was her ‘poor me’ act concerning her marriage. And as soon as her husband sees someone else peeing on his property, all of a sudden he notices her and wants her back, and she questions EVERYTHING she learned being on her own???? I mean, seriously?! The feminist message that the author was trying to encourage was completely undermined with the return of Marianne’s husband Lothar on the scene. Honestly, it kind of ticked me off. Just writing about it makes me want to shake this character.
Another message I think that the author was trying to get across was not to miss a moment to tell someone you love them, which again, I agree with on the whole, but the way it was portrayed through all these stories of unrequited love in the book was just downright depressing. Even though everyone got a HEA in the end, so much time would have been saved had people actually TALKED to one another, it was sad. Downright depressing actually. You’ve got Simon who is in love with Collette and Collette has no clue. Sidonie who is in love with Collette, but Collette doesn’t realize it until she finds out that Sidonie is dying when all of a sudden she realizes she is in love with Sidonie as well. You’ve got Alain and Genevieve and their missed connection that took a lifetime to work out. Then there’s Jean-Remy who writes beautiful love letters to Laurine, but never gives them to her, and instead thinks she will never love him and decides to bed a former lover of his. And of course Laurine smells the woman on him and that’s when she realizes she loves him, and storms off to a neighboring town on the other side of the river. I mean, come ON! I just can’t with this book.
The only characters that didn’t piss me off in this story are Emile and Pascale, and Yann, and out of those, we only ever got Emile’s POV, while we received plenty other POVs that just killed this story for me. And hands down, Pascale, the most interesting character in the book in my opinion, had the best line of the whole book:
‘Oh get down from your cross; we need the timber.’
All in all, this book was just okay for me. As I said, the writing was well-done, but the people were aggravating and the themes weren’t executed very well.
Until next time,
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