Book Review: The Little Breton Bistro, by Nina George

Publisher:  Abacus (Little Brown Book Group)

Publication date:  2nd March 2017

the-little-breton-bistro-my-review

You can’t change dreams; you can only kill them – and some of us are very good murderers.

the-little-breton-bistroThe Little Breton Bistro is a place where delicious food and great companionship are served with free life assistance. It plays host to the great recital of life, where some folks are lucky enough to hit the right notes while others find only the flats, the sharps, or those bum ones that weren’t supposed to be heard out loud.

Firstly ignore the pretty facade of the cover for a moment, inside people’s lives are crumbling. Its opening chapter is a pretty grim introduction to Marianne as it walks us through the conviction of her decision to end things. Instantly I found myself standing on a bridge beside a woman as the final little details of her life played out in readiness for her leap into the river Seine; the shedding of her coat, her wedding ring, her entire life.

At this stage I already knew I wasn’t a reader any longer but a witness, powerless to intervene. I suddenly wanted to know everything about Marianne and who had driven her to such a dark place and left her there, emotionally ill-equipped and alone.

Cue fate’s invisible hand in the guise of a ceramic tile made by the hand of an artisan in Port de Kerdruc. Marianne discovers this strangely alluring article in the hospital after she follows through with her decision to jump.

I won’t lie, I felt sad knowing her intentions hadn’t changed but also oddly encouraged as the humble tile maps out a curious destiny. She ups and leaves with only the clothes on her back (allowing the painted tile to guide her) and quickly experiences a religious encounter in the form of a nun on the bus, becomes a stowaway aboard a fishing boat, and is mistakenly offered a job as a trainee chef. There are too many tender, agonising, or entertaining exploits to mention, but each one is vital, poignant, and determined to set her free in one way or another to rediscover the woman that had already died; a bright, intoxicating spirit her forty-one years of marriage had snuffed out.

The cast of equally challenged locals embrace the arrival of this unassuming woman until she is revived by their well-intended interference, and in return so are they. Apprehension prevents many people in this novel from opening their hearts to the possibility of happiness or even recognising it at times, especially when it’s staring them in the face. But a gentle nudge from someone who cares could give you the courage to run towards something rather than from it.

The underlying message of The Little Breton Bistro is universal in any language; while we remain intent on channelling our emotional efforts in the wrong direction we’re essentially forgetting how to live, only succeeding in losing a little bit more of ourselves along the way.

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to the publisher for approving my Netgalley request to read this title, for which I am delighted to provide this unbiased review.)

the-little-breton-bistro-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Marianne Messman, a housewife, wants to escape her loveless marriage and an uncaring and unfeeling husband of 35 years [Note: review copy says 41 years]. Marianne and her husband (army sergeant major Lothar) take a trip to Paris, during which Marianne leaps off the Pont Neuf into the Seine, but she is saved from drowning by a homeless man. Angered by her behaviour, major Lothar takes a coach trip back home to Germany, expecting that a psychologist will escort Marianne home a few days later. However, Marianne comes across a hand-painted scene of the tiny port of Kerdruc in Brittany, and becomes fixated with the place. Marianne decides to make her way to Kerduc, and once there meets a host of colourful characters who all gravitate around the small restaurant of Ar Mor (The Sea).

It is this cast of true Bretons who become Marianne’s new family. She finds love and passion with Yann, an artist who becomes her guide to the secrets of Brittany. Before long, Marianne’s husband is back to retrieve her and Marianne feels pulled towards her old life by way of duty and guilt. She leaves Kerduc and gets as far as Paris before she realises it’s now or never when it comes to building the life she really wants.

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the-little-breton-bistro-author-profile

(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Born 1973 in Bielefeld, Germany, Nina George is a prize-winning and bestselling author (“Das Lavendelzimmer” – “The Little Paris Bookshop”) and freelance journalist since 1992, who has published 26 books (novels, mysteries and non-fiction) as well as over hundred short stories and more than 600 columns. George has worked as a cop reporter, columnist and managing editor for a wide range of publications, including Hamburger Abendblatt, Die Welt, Der Hamburger, “politik und kultur” as well as TV Movie and Federwelt. Georges writes also under three pen-names, for ex “Jean Bagnol”, a double-andronym for provence-based mystery novels.

In 2012 and 2013 she won the DeLiA and the Glauser-Prize. In 2013 she had her first bestselling book “Das Lavendelzimmer”, translated in 27 languages and sold more than 500.000 copies.

To read the full author biography please visit Nina George’s website or Goodreads.

TWITTER   |   FACEBOOK   |   WEBSITE   |   GOODREADS

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR:

The Little Paris Bookshop: My review was published on 28th April 2015.

The Little Paris Bookshop

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