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August 28, 2017

The Little French Bistro

The Little French Bistro

By: Nina George

The Little French Bistro is reminiscent in theme and plot to George’s first novel, The Little Paris Bookshop.  In both novels, we encounter characters paralyzed by grief or despair who take action to change their lives, and ultimately forge a new path to happiness.  I have previously reviewed The Little Paris Bookshop, which you can find here. Both novels are filled with hope and show that no matter how bad things get, life and love can still be redeemed.

In this short novel, we first encounter Marianne, age 60, in Paris, where she plans to drown herself in the Seine.  Unhappily married to an unfaithful, selfish, and controlling man, Marianne sees death as a path to freedom.  A homeless man pulls her out of the river and calls an ambulance. Her husband, Lothar, comes to see her and berate her, and then heads back to Germany, because his ticket is nonrefundable.  Marianne discovers a beautiful painted tile of a coastal town in France, Kerdruc.  She walks out of the hospital, and starts out for Kerdruc, intending to end her life there.

However, when she arrives in Kerdruc, life takes over and she begins to embrace her existence and everything that comes with it.  In short order, she begins a new job in a restaurant (the little French bistro), makes connections and friends in the community, falls in love, and finds a new path to happiness.  There is a touch of magical realism in the novel as well as themes of mysticism.  This is not a major part of the story and is just one element that lends a touch of mystery and magic to the story.

Marianne absolutely flourishes in her new environment in a way she never has before and never knew she could.  When her husband makes a televised public service announcement to find her, she panics and starts to doubt herself.  When he shows up in town looking for her, she questions everything she has been doing and feeling and agrees to go home to Germany with him.  Marianne struggles with her decision and eventually finds her path to where she belongs.

The Little French Bistro is a novel of second chances.  Marianne, at the age of 60, is able to rebuild her life and find a new path to love and happiness.  Since many novels focus on younger characters, it is good to see a book with more mature characters and the dilemmas they face.  Marianne shows us that we have the opportunity to change our circumstances and engage with life, no matter our age or situation.

Review By:  Heidi Herald