On the lookout for a book to take away recently I came across this new book of Nina George, the author of The Little Paris Bookshop. As I enjoyed The Little Paris Bookshop with its unusual and sensitive characters I was sure I would also enjoy this book about my favourite part of France, Brittany! Nina George lives between Berlin and Bretagne and her knowledge of the Breton people surely comes through in her writing. The book cover artwork was also inviting, and I admit to being influenced by a book’s cover … probably shouldn’t but I do! Does a book cover influence you if you know nothing else about the book?
So about the book … A loveless marriage brings Marianne Messman (our main character) to a point in her life when on a trip to Paris she leaps off the Pont Neuf into the Seine. Her plan to end her life is foiled however by a passer-by and whilst recovering in a hospital, chances upon a painting of a beautiful port town in Brittany. Feeling an unexplained affinity for the painting and its location Marianne sets off on a final adventure to this location with the plan to spend her last day.
On reaching the picturesque Brittany, Marianne is swept up in a new way of life that is without constraints or expectations at the ‘Ar Mor’ (The Sea) Restaurant. Whilst taking on a new life as a cook she meets Yann the handsome painter, Genevieve the fiery restaurent owner and Jean-Rémy the heartbroken chef and others who are living their lives with gusto in this seaside village.
Marianne finds that with living in the moment she is indeed passionate, carefree and finds an inner strength that has always been quashed by her husband. To come out from under the shadows of her loveless marriage she must make a decision on whether to embrace her new way of life and friends, or return to the same expecting little to change.
Facing change is a difficult thing to do regardless of the circumstances, and then adapting to them takes courage. Rediscovering yourself among life’s challenges is explored throughout this book via its quirky characters.
As Marianne tries to find the courage to search for her own path, she thinks to herself ‘Life as an autonomous woman is not a song. It’s a scream, a war; it’s a daily struggle against the easy option of obeying. I could have obeyed, could have lived less dangerously, ventured nothing, failed at nothing’.
I loved the book because of its idilic setting and the gentle way it looked at big issues facing some of those around us. A book full of lovable quirky French characters is probably always going to entertain a Francophile and in this case it certainly did. Nina George highlights the uselessness of loving someone for many years and not spending time together, and how this waste of opportunity is heightened as we grow older. Alain and Geneviève are the ill-fated lovers living on opposite sides of the harbour loving each other, competing in business but seemingly unable to tell each other. Spending time with loved ones before it is too late is very important.
The book is full of information about Brittany, such as the Filets Blues, the Festival of Blue Nets, in Concarneau; the love of accordion playing and the superstitions held fiercly by the Bretons. Pascale explains to Marianne “This land … You see, the Bretons are proud of their superstitions, which is why they sometimes feel superior to other people.” Druids, witches and other superstitions are a part of Breton folklore together with standing stones and megalith sites and Nina George weaves this cleverly into this offbeat love story.
So my summary: A fun enjoyable read (notwithstanding the seriousness of Marianne’s initial decision to end her life) with quirky characters in an idilic part of the world, that reminds us that love can blossom at any age and should be grasped and cherished. A good Sunday or holiday read that will have you cheering on the older generation who are seeking a slice of love in their later age and leave you wanting to experience the region of Brittany, France. To help you plan a holiday find resources below and hotel booking info here. (Please read our disclosure statement on affiliate links here.)
You cannot tell love to come and stay for ever. You can only welcome it when it comes, like the summer or the autumn, and when its time is up and gone, then its gone.
As this story is set in a village rather than on a moving barge, there is a wider range of characters in this novel compared to The Little Paris Bookshop and their interaction with each other is captivating.
Enjoy your little bit of Brittany in The Little Breton Bistro …
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