Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Little French Bistro, by Nina George

The Little French Bistro

This book starts darkly, with a desperately unhappy sixty year old German woman attempting suicide. On a trip to Paris Marianne slips away from her controlling, philandering, and dismissive husband and deliberately herself into the Seine. Unwillingly saved before drowning she is hospitalized; there she is captivated by a small painting of the French coast. She promptly escapes, making her way to the sea, alone, friendless, not knowing the language, and determined to try to kill herself again.

Despite the tragic beginning, The Little French Bistro tells the story of a woman learning to trust herself for the first time and discovering she has wants and needs of her own. "I never even noticed that I am alive, she thought." At the same time, the small group of people she falls into help themselves by helping her, binding them all together in camaraderie and companionship. While sharing Marianne's journey out of depression George brilliantly illustrates the unbounded healing power of friendship. I found her description of the simple gaze of friends as "a balm for all the tears a woman shed over her lifetime—tears of passion, longing, happiness, emotion, rage, love, or pain" especially moving. An uplifting story that was welcome in our isolating times.

First Sentence:
It was the first decision she had ever made on her own, the very first time she was able to determine the course of her life.

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