THE LITTLE FRENCH BISTRO, BY NINA GEORGE
PUBLICATION: CROWN, JUNE 13, 2017
About the book:
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.
I was so excited when I got my hands on a copy of The Little French Bistro, full of anticipation after loving The Little Paris Bookshop so much! While I enjoyed Nina George’s latest novel, unfortunately, I was not as moved by this as I was by her previous novel.
Marianne is sixty years old and traveling in Paris with her husband Lothar. There’s is a boring, loveless marriage and she has decided to end her life. When her suicide attempts fail, she heads for the coast in search of a new life, with hopes of rediscovering herself and happiness.
I liked Marianne’s character, feeling “better late than never” towards her journey of self-discovery. Her life had passed her by without any great love or passion with a cheating and controlling husband. She sets off on a journey after being mesmerized by the beauty of painted tile, ending up in a small, coastal town in France. Being German, she doesn’t understand the French dialect there, but with the help of a chef, she begins to pick up the language. I also loved all of the characters she met. Emile and his ailing wife Pascale, Yann the artist, Laurine the waitress, Simon and Paul, Collete and Simonie, and so on. Each and every character had their own unique story but shared the common bond of wanting great love, experiencing great love, and the loss of great love. The only unlikeable character was Marianne’s husband Lothar, but “unlikeable” seems too passive of a word. I despised the man.
Despite the beautiful, descriptive writing, colorful and interesting characters, and the promise of Marianne’s journey of self-discovery, the overall storyline just fell flat with me. My first issue was the slight absurdity of Marianne’s experiences. I don’t want to give spoilers, but I will just say that this was one very lucky woman to run across such good fortune and good people. I realize it’s a work of fiction, but I struggled with wrapping my arms around all of it. Marianne transformed from a suicidal housewife to a successful, helpful, caring, and well-liked woman in the matter of days and weeks. She got an amazing job, an amazing guest room, was able to do what she wanted, was given a car, and so forth. I think my point is that it was too perfect for me to really get into it. But then all of her supposed growth just vanished at sight of Lothar or the sound of his voice, making me wonder, was she just playing a part in a make-believe world rather than really gaining strength and confidence?
Again, there are many wonderful aspects to The Little French Bistro and I am certainly glad to have read it. It has especially romantic qualities in that so many of the characters are older adults yet still yearning for and finding love, despite their ages. Love stories involving older adults is not something you read every day and it was quite refreshing! More focus on her evolving and less fantastical luck would have improved this read for me.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase The Little French Bistro on Amazon.
Learn more about Nina George by visiting her web page.