cover image The Little Village of Book Lovers

The Little Village of Book Lovers

Nina George. Ballantine, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-15788-6

George offers an appealing companion piece to The Little Paris Bookshop, featuring a bookseller in the South of France with a magical ability. Marie-Jeanne Claudel, an orphan, is adopted as an infant in 1958 by Elsa Malbec and Francis Meurienne, a middle-aged couple in Nyons. At nine, Marie-Jeanne notices a glow on her friends Loulou and Luca and realizes it’s because they love each other, though they’re oblivious and constantly bicker. Then, over Elsa’s objections, after Marie-Jeanne turns 10, she helps Francis launch the Philis Mobile Library, delivering books throughout the week to nearby towns. George then fast-forwards to the 1980s, with Marie-Jeanne running her own bookstore, Lumières du Sud, a few hours from Nyons, which becomes a place where people meet and fall in love, thanks to a nudge from Marie-Jeanne. A parallel narrative follows Elsa and Francis, who finally discover passion after joining a book group together when Marie-Jeanne is a teen, and Loulou and Luca, now married, whose twin daughters also adore books. The prose is simplistic (young Marie-Jeanne initially finds Waiting for Godot “rude,” but eventually realizes, “books sometimes don’t say what they say but instead contain a hidden message”). Still, George convincingly portrays her characters’ emotions, particularly the lovesick Francis. The result is a bit more straightforward than the books Marie-Jeanne comes to love, but charming nonetheless. Agent: Cecile Barendsma, Cecile B. Literary. (July)