I liked this book mostly for the beautiful writing. The main character, Jean Perdu, was an interesting man and very likeable but I didn't understand why he held on so tightly to a lost love for over 20 years and wouldn't allow himself to live a fruitful life because he lost her.
Perdu had a knack for suggesting the perfect book for the reader. That ability didn't ring true to me because the man wasn't honest with himself about his own feelings. He wouldn't allow himself to experience his buried emotions so how could he know and understand the feelings and needs of his customers so completely?
This book is about the journey Perdu takes as he finally decides to deal with his past loss. It is a long journey that involves some idiosyncratic characters, some beautiful places, and many beautiful literary passages.
The wound is opened with an unread letter left by his lover 2 decades before. Perdu has not had the courage to open it until the letter is discovered by a neighbor. The letter is not what he expected but it forces him to come to terms with the past.
I think the author is much more of a romantic than I am. That being said I still enjoyed the book immensely. I wanted to shake Perdu at times and advise him to just get on with his life. Go ahead and grieve but then get on with living your life. It's not that I haven't experienced the loss of a love and I have felt that loss and still do in some ways, but I did get on with the life that was before me. I realize that when and if I face the loss of my partner and lover of the last 42 years I may not be so anxious to get on with my life. I hope I never have to but I also hope he doesn't have to. My plan is to go in our sleep on the same night.
There's a map at the beginning of the book which is always a plus in my opinion. At the end there are recipes - another big plus. Throughout the book Perdu jotted ideas into his Great Encyclopedia of Small Emotions: A Guide for Booksellers, Lovers and Other Literary Pharmacist. The last paragraph of the books is an entry under K: "Kitchen Solace -- the feeling that a delicious meal is simmering on the kitchen stove, misting up the windows, and that at any moment your lover will sit down to dinner with you and, between mouthfuls, gaze happily into your eyes. (Also known as living.)" At the end of the book, after the recipes, is Jean Perdu's Emergency Literary Pharmacy. This listing includes "fast-acting medicines for minds and hearts affected by monor or moderate emotional turmoil. To be taken in easily digestible doses . . . and if possible, with warm feet and/or a cat on your lap."
If I was to rate this book I think I'd go with a 4.5 because of the beautiful thoughts and passages that are sprinkled in good measure throughout the book. One that will stay with for a long time is this one: "Some thresholds are too wide to be taken in one stride."