PUB DAY: April 9, 2019

The Book of Dreams

Warm, wise, and magical — the latest novel by the bestselling author of "The Little Paris Bookshop" and "The Little French Bistro".
An astonishing exploration of the thresholds between life and death.
The Book of Dreams

Warm, wise, and magical — the latest novel by Nina George: A revelatory, urgently human story that examines what we consider serious and painful alongside light and whimsy, THE BOOK OF DREAMS is a tender meditation on memory, liminality, and empathy, asking with grace and gravitas what we will truly find meaningful in our lives once we are gone.

PUB DAY: April 9, 2019
The Book of Dreams

Advance praise for The Book of Dreams:

“An effective exploration of connections that transcend physical boundaries…a poignant story about longing, nostalgia, and the pain of missed opportunities.” — Kirkus Reviews

“An empathetic and emotionally stunning novel. Never preachy or maudlin, this deep dive into some of life’s most haunting questions will appeal to fans of Isabel Allende and Mary Simses.” — Booklist

“Captivating… This exploration of unfinished relationships has a haunting, evocative quality, and is a perfect, conversation-starting selection for book groups.” — Publishers Weekly
Release date: Apr 09, 2019 | Hardcover 400 Pages, Ebook 400 Pages, Paperback 614 Pages
Translated by Simon Pare
The Little French Bistro

June LibraryReads Selection
An NPR Best Book of 2017

The Little Breton Bistro is an enchanting and inviting love letter to second chances and rediscovering yourself among life’s challenges.

An extraordinary novel about self-discovery and new beginnings. With all the buoyant charm that made The Little Paris Bookshop a beloved bestseller, The Little French Bistro is a tale of second chances and a delightful embrace of the joys of life in France.

The Little French Bistro

The Little French Bistro
“George beautifully evokes Brittany with its rocky shores, crustacean-rich waters and Celtic origins… It’s no spoiler to say this novel offers a happy ending — and a satisfying one, as well.” — The Washington Post “...George stops time and again to savor Brittany’s delicacies—from a Belon oyster washed down with a glass of Muscadet to a buttery kouign-amann cake; scallops with cider apples to cotriade, a local fish stew—embracing the true flavors of a land that ‘shapes people…not the other way around.’” — New York Times Book Review

“[Nina] George’s engrossing novel is as much about indulging the senses with succulent dishes and dazzling sights as it is about romance and second chances. With a profound sense of place and sensuous prose, the novel functions as a satisfying virtual visit to the French Riviera. A luscious and uplifting tale of personal redemption in the tradition of Eat, Pray, Love.” — Kirkus Reviews

“George envelops the reader in the sights, sounds, and smells of the coastal town, heightening Marianne’s new experiences with lush descriptions of Breton life. Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert and Isabel Allende will adore this courageous story of new beginnings, second chances, and the power of self-love.” — Booklist

“The author of The Little Paris Bookshop has done it again. The message of this beguiling, second-chance romance—a rich life is possible at any age—will charm readers with its ring of truth.” — Library Journal (starred)
Release date: Mar 06, 2018 | Paperback 368 Pages
Translated by Simon Pare
The Little Paris Bookshop
New York Times Bestseller
A LibraryReads Favorite of the Favorites
An Indie Bestseller of 2015
Costco’s “Pennie’s Pick”

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.

The Little Paris Bookshop was first published in German as "Das Lavendelzimmer" on May 2, 2013. Set in Provence, this sensual novel deals with heartbreak, solace and the love of books. It has been translated into 37 languages.

It has ranked among the top ten novels on Spiegel Magazine’s bestseller list for fiction since May 2013 and entered as well the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list. The Little Paris Bookshop has as well hit no. 1 of the 'Indie Bestsellers', US bestseller list for paperback / fiction .

The Little Paris Bookshop

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies — I mean books — that were written for one person only… A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy.”
“Hits the sweet spot of bestsellers – it’s about old Europe, it’s about a bookseller, [New York Times] it’s got Paris in the title…and it’s got that kind of woo-woo mystical thing going on, like that other big translated fiction title The Alchemist.” — The New York Times

“Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, Nina George’s impressionistic prose takes the reader on a journey not just through the glories of France and the wonders of books, but through the encyclopedic panoply of human emotions. The Little Paris Bookshop is a book whose palette, textures, and aromas will draw you in and cradle you in the redemptive power of love.” — Charlie Lovett, author of The Bookman’s Tale

“If you're looking to be charmed right out of your own life for a few hours, sit down with this wise and winsome novel...Everything happens just as you want it to... from poignant moments to crystalline insights in exactly the right measure.” —

“[A] bona fide international hit.” — New York Times Book Review

“A story that reflects all the romance and sweetness of Paris itself.” — San Francisco Book Review

“The Little Paris Bookshop is an enchantment. The next best thing to booking a trip to France.” — Sarah Pekkanen, author of Catching Air

Release date: Jun 23, 2015 | Hardcover 400 Pages, Ebook 416 Pages, Paperback 416 Pages
Translated by Simon Pare


DAS LAVENDELZIMMER (incl. GER 37 countries)

USA: Crown, Random House (23 June 2015, THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP)
UK / British Common Wealth: Abacus / Little Brown (16 April 2015, THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP)
France: Editions Leduc (10 June 2014)
Spain: Random House Mondadori (03 July 2014)
Portugal: Presença
Brazil: Record (2016)
Italy: Sperling & Kupfer (July 2014)
Holland: Luitingh-Sijthoff (18 July 2014)
Norway: CappelenDamm (January 2015)
Sweden: Bazar (2015)
Finland: Bazar (2016)
Denmark: Bazar (2016)
Russia: Azbooka-Atticus (2015)
Ukraine: Nash Format Publishers (2016)
Latvia: Zvaigzne ABC (2015)
Lithuania: Alma littera (2014)
Poland: Otwarte (Januar 2014)
Czech Republik: Moravská Bastei MOBA (2014)
Croatia: Mozaik Knjiga (2015)
Serbia: Nova Knjiga Plus (2015)
Slovenia: Ucila International Zalozba
Slowakia: Remedium Publishing (2014)
Bulgaria: Sluntse Publishers (2015)
Hungary: Maxim Publisher (2014)
Greece: Klidarithmos (2016)
Turkey: Pegasus (2015)
Albania: Pegi Publishing (2016)
Israel: Modan Publishers (2015)
China/Taiwan: Crown Publishing (2016)
Mainland China: CITIC
Japan: Sueisha
Korea: Sam & Parkers (2015)
Indonesia: PT Gramedia
Vietnam: Nha Nham

DIE MONDSPIELERIN (incl. GER 13 countries)

USA: Crown, Random House (April 2017, THE LITTLE FRENCH BISTRO)
UK / British Common Wealth: Abacus / Little Brown (April 2017, THE LITTLE BRETON BISTRO)
Italy: Sperling & Kupfer (2015)
Holland: Luitingh-Sijthoff (2015)
Poland: Otwarte (April 2015)
Czech Republik: Moravská Bastei MOBA (2016)
Serbia: Nova Knjiga Plus
Slovenia: Ucila International Zalozba (2014)
Bulgaria: Sluntse Publishers
Greece: Klidarithmos
Turkey: Pegasus
Brazil: Record (2016)

DAS TRAUMBUCH (incl. GER 14 countries)

France: Slatkine (2017, SI PROCHE, SI LOIN)
Italy: Sperling & Kupfer (17.05.2016)
Holland: Luitingh-Sijthoff (2016)
Czech Republik: Moravská Bastei MOBA
Poland: Otwarte (2017)
Turkey: Pegasus
Korea: Sam & Parkers
Finland: Bazar (2016)
Brazil: Record (2019)
USA: Crown, Random House (The Book of Dreams)
UK: Simon & Schuster (2019)
The Little Paris Bookshop is available in 37 countries and languages
The Little Paris Bookshop

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Das Lavendelzimmer

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The Little Paris Bookshop

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La Lettre oubliée

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De Boekenapotheek aan de Seine

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Una piccola libreria a Parigi

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Sabor a Provenza

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Lawendowy pokóje

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Levandų kambarys

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Det litterære apotek

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Lavanta Odasi

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Lavandu istaba

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Парижката книжарница

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Den Lilla Bokhandeln i Paris

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Лавандовая комната

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Author and activist for author’s rights

© Photo by Helmut Henkensiefken

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies — I mean books — that were written for one person only …
A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy.”

Born 1973 in Bielefeld, Germany, Nina George is a prize-winning and international bestselling author (“Das Lavendelzimmer” – “The Little Paris Bookshop”) and freelance journalist since 1992, who has published 28 books (novels, mysteries and non-fiction) as well as over hundred short stories and more than 600 columns. Nina George has worked as a reporter and columnist for a wide range of publications, including Hamburger Abendblatt, Die Welt, Die Zeit or Standard. Georges writes also under three pen-names, for example “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 into 37 languages and sold more than 1,5 million copies.

In 2011, Nina George established the “JA zum Urheberrecht” (YES on Author’s Rights) initiative. 14 writers’ associations and 27 publishing partners have since joined the Initiative. In August 2014 George initiated the Amazon-protest in Germany, where overs 2000 germanspeaking authors – Nobelprizewinnig Elfriede Jelinek or Bestsellingauthor Nele Neuhaus – sign an open letter to Jeff Bezos and Amazon, protesting against the banned-book-methods of the giant retailer in the Hachette/Bonnier-dispute. In 2015 George founded the Initiative Fairer Buchmarkt e.V., 2016 she initiated the Netzwerk Autorenrechte (Network Authorsrights), representing today 10.000 writers and translators of 14 member-associations.
Nina George is the deputy of the President of the Three Seas Writers’ and Translaters’ Council (TSWTC). From 2015-2019 she served on the board of German PEN, from 2017-2019 also in the board of the German Writers’ Union VS. George sits also on the administrative board of Collecting Society VG Wort and is chair of the working group E-Book.

In June 2019 Nina George was elected as President of the European Writers’ Council.

Nina George is Member to PEN Germany and the PEN International Writers’ Circle, Das Syndikat, the Writers’ Union of Germany (VS), the Hamburg Authors’ Association (HAV), BücherFrauen (Women in Publishing), the IACW/AIEP (International Association of Crime Writers) and the GEDOK (Association of female artists in Germany).

She lives in Berlin and the Bretagne.

Website in German:

MEDIA  |  A selection of printable press photos for download

U.S. Book Tour Diary
Nine cities in eight days. Nina George's travel to the heart of the intellectual, the poor and America in search of an attitude. She speaks to booksellers, readers, agents and people on the street. George's Diary "This is not Trump's Land".
© Translated by Heidi Holzer | © Photos by Nina George


On my way to Paris-Orly
The heat is burning a hole in the day. Hall 4 is cool and empty. Blissfully exhausted tourists are dressed for the beach. I scan my passport and hand over my carry-on. The security officer wishes me bonne journée.
A mere five minutes later, I’m in transit. The laid-back nature of southern France. I’m on my way to Paris-Orly. Then I’ll be leaving Europe and returning to the United States for the first time since 2011 and 1994.

How much has America’s heartbeat changed? What about its fears? Its hopes?

PARIS-ORLY The landing is like any other at Parisian airports: a mogul course, sliding on ice. My stomach does a somersault. Old airport, no transit area. Travelers who’ve lost their way. Huge suitcases. The wait at the security check is twenty minutes or more.
I take the Fast Track and feel like Georg Clooney. It takes me only three minutes to pass through.

Crowed halls - Airport Paris-Orly
Crowed halls. Overwhelmed children. American women complaining loudly. They look around, demanding sympathy for their thirty-minute delay. Everyone stands around. Cats hissing. Streams of sweat. Nine wheelchairs break through the human wall in slow motion. I eat France’s national dish. A sandwich: emmenthal/jambon cuire avec un dessert. Two madeleines (bien sur). I add a Perrier and go stand by a cool wall. Next to me, two French women enjoy each other’s company.
An American woman reads Harlan Coben. Then she takes out her Samsung and enters “Dr. V, Botox” in her calendar.
The art of building a bubble around oneself.
P.S.: No one knows why you have to sit in a plane air-conditioned to a chilly 60 degrees.

NEW YORK The plane is two hours late. A final taste of Europe in the inflight meal: Breton cookies; sauvignon from the Gascoigne; framboise dessert avec du Cognac.

The endurance race
The endurance race through the switchback rows. Along row 11, people chatter, sob and pray throughout the turbulence over Newfoundland and the inflight movie. Wrapped in blankets, they shiver under the air conditioning. Border control. The first passengers off the plane are in luck. The endurance race through the switchback rows leading to passport control takes them at most only three minutes. Behind me stands a French businessman who was also on the plane from Marseille. He’s smiling.
A quick jolt of adrenaline. Now what?

Stand in line! Where are you arriving from? What is your purpose in visiting the United States? When will you return?
All ten fingers scanned. My pupils too. The officer seems unimpressed by my answer that I’m here to promote my new novel. She stamps my passport without another word. No cell phone check. U.S. Customs: Do you have anything to declare? Six leather friendship bracelets. “Like these.” He doesn’t spare them a glance. I’m waved on.

Smile - with Jean-Marcel
Eighty-degree heat beats against my chilled, air-conditioned face. Jean-Marcel, my driver, is already waiting. He speaks French. Another blast of air-conditioning in the Grand Cherokee. Our conversation is a mix of English and French. How many tourists ask him about Trump?
“No one does,” he says. “You’re the first.”
“I keep out of politics,” Jean-Marcel says. “You have to be a politician to understand politics. He’s the president now…” My driver pauses, shrugs his broad shoulders, “…and a few years from now, it will be someone else.”
“Yes,” I say. Washington is irrelevant to Jean-Marcel’s survival. “Tell me about your book,” he says. He also likes to go rhumba dancing. And salsa. Manhattan glows golden in the evening sun.

8:00 pm local time. Empire Hotel. For me, it’s two in the morning. I wander down Broadway, past Lincoln Center. Smoking is only allowed outside the park.

Dinner at Clarke’s. Like everywhere in the world, the waitresses tend to the woman traveling alone with motherly care. The fifteen-dollar glass of Laphroig whisky is three stories high.
It’s 10:30 pm, four-thirty in the morning, my time, when I fall into bed. I leave the window open and turn off the air-conditioning. I sleep in stages, deeply and as motionless as an old rock.

I have cherries from Washington for breakfast. The season is almost over. One pound of cherries costs five bucks. I share them with a homeless couple just outside Central Park. They are smoking shit. It’s Gay Pride today, they tell me. ABC is broadcasting the parade for the first time in 37 years.
Outside Central Park
“Every year with Trump sets the United States back 10 years,” the man says. They voted for the first time in twenty years—for Clinton. The man has a sign on his knapsack: “Fuck Trump! We are lost, need help.” Garbage trucks are parked continuously around Melania’s apartment building, he tells me. As a barrier. It was Trump’s idea.
We talk for half an hour. I like his skull rings.
Filter bubble on. I hear Sunny in my head. I damp my emotions. Make myself friendlier. I shared the rest of my cherries with a beggar on Broadway. He was standing in front of the book-filled entrance to Penguin Random House and asked whether I was going to finish the fruit. I offered him the bag so he could reach inside. He held up his hands. “You don’t want me to do that…” But they were only a little dirty. Before he had time to feel ashamed, I shovel a pound of cherries into the open bowl of his cracked fingers. I carry his smile along into my filter bubble. Another beggar stands in front of the train station. Or maybe he’s just a normal person looking for a handout. Who can tell? No cherries this time. Cigarettes. I give him my last three Gauloises, imported from France. “Bien sur, Madame,” he says and pockets them without moving. We don’t talk about Trump. I’d like to. At the same time, I’d rather not.
It’s obvious that the people who work in the book industry—“the business of hope,” as my publisher likes to say—find Trump unsettling. They cannot explain how this terrible joke could have come true, and how often they have to deal with European colleagues who torment them with this reality. It would be like people reproachfully asking you or me—over and over again—why “the Germans” keep voting for AfD (the ultra-right “Alternative für Deutschland”-party). Even though “the Germans” do not, in fact, “keep voting for AfD.” In three hours, I’ll be on my way to Madison and R.J. Julia.


Penn Station
I’m writing this on the Amtrak Acela Express train 2159 from New York to Washington, DC. It’s Monday, 2:05 pm, local time. 8:02 pm European time. End station is Baltimore, arrival time: 3:35/9:35 pm.

Rebecca’s Amtrak tutorial yesterday on the ride to Madison, Connecticut — a town of facades that look like decorated cakes—should have been sufficient preparation. And yet, I react like a typical European. To put it mildly. With irritation, you could even say. And gratitude for Deutsche Bahn. 
Soldiers on patrol in Penn Station. The announcement for the departure platform comes only five minutes before the (planned, hoped for) departure (at the earliest). On huge panels, before which a crowd of what feels like thousands is lurking, ready to make a mad dash. Or at least to avoid being the last person in line. Trains to New Orleans are traditionally six hours late.

Bam! Platform 12W! Hundreds of travelers with suitcases the size of coffins squeeze their way through the bottleneck to the escalator. Whoever gets to the bottom first can pick a seat in the mile-long iron dragon, which will slice through the horizon, glittering in the sunshine, at a speed of 150 miles an hour. Everyone else grabs the free seats. No reservations. The air conditioning system is set to a wintry temperature.

Only a few people watch movies or listen to music with earplugs. Instead, a cacophony of children’s games, TV series and movies blares from iPhones. Business Class is half filled with legislators murmuring into their phones, commuting to Washington. A New York senator poses for a photo with his fans. I discreetly move out of the picture. If he only knew.
R.J. Julia
Madison. Sunday, June 25, 2017. The book tour begins at R.J. Julia. Book tours here are different. You read at most for eight out of the sixty minutes scheduled for the event. And not all at once, please. Talk. Tell stories. Provide context. Read a few paragraphs. Chat with the fans. Be honest. Why, how and wherefore. Stick to the plan. Q&A. Sign books. Take photos. Time to go. I think about how long it took me to get to this small podium, standing before sixty American women and three husbands, presumably gently dragged along. A very long journey, the two-and-a-half-hour Amtrak ride was only the last long step.

How many years have I been writing now? Twenty-six, if you count the years I’ve been published professionally. Thirty if you add on the discreetly revised journals that I wrote at 13, 14. A fictional life, because my real one was limited, with me full of longing. Suddenly, I feel weak, in pain, agitated. It was such a long journey. A very long way. Thousands of tears. The Little French Bistro was where I found my voice. I’m struck by the fact that it took seven, eight, nine years for my voice to be heard. Here, before these people, who are so different and yet so similar. Culture, politics, everyday life: they are so different. We hold Trump in contempt. We should mind our own business. But the feeling—to love, to be hurt when we are not loved; to grow older, to ask ourselves: is this where I’m supposed to be? What have I done with my life—is this really me?—female moments. Love of self; being alive, truly alive: all these things cross something as trivial as a national border. They meld us together. Woman and woman and woman. Across age, religions, occupations, appearances, beyond everyday life. Books. The Résistance. 
I read
I straighten. Later, I will cry in the night, shortly after three-thirty am. And New York will fold itself around me. This city never sleeps. In Madison, I’m given champagne. I explain to the audience that my European body thinks the time is ten pm. They laugh. Then they raise a glass with me at four in the afternoon. I tell them Marianne’s story from The Little French Bistro—in English, French, and a few German phrases. I share French beauty secrets (“two lipsticks and a lover”). I read. The way I read—with everything that I am. My voice. My face. The movements of my body. Later, people will remark that they’d never experienced anything like it before. I think to myself: the training we authors get doing readings in Germany obviously pays off.

At the end of the long, really, really long signing line (I’m not used to seeing everyone buy a book?!), a woman comes up to me. She reminds me of Diane Keaton. We speak French. She will fly to Europe next week. She strongly suspects that she will have to apologize for Trump to everyone she meets there. “Il est un…” she begins. “Asshole?” I suggest while she supplies “Grand con.” Absolute idiot. We toss four-letter words back and forth. “Excuse our French” I tell the bookseller. We all laugh, liberated.
Diane Keaton’s doppelganger says she’s embarrassed to go to France as an American. She feels a desperate need to explain that America is not like that. It really isn’t. The bookseller will say the same thing.
She talks about colleagues in Trump Country, where he won the majority of votes, who placed more anti-Trump books than usual in their shop windows on the day of the Pussyhat Women’s March. Who set up display tables under the slogan: “freedom of speech is democracy.” Customers then complained to the management. Some of them boycotted the stores. Because that freedom-of-speech idea—such anarchy. So political. Incidentally, science fiction is hip (again). So are love stories without a happy ending. And, indeed, Herman Koch. "The book business is a real business of just hope.” When I’m introduced, my work as an activist for women’s rights and author’s rights earns me more applause than the mention of my 35 translation.

Signing line
The limousine that takes Rebecca and me back to New York—she has worked out my entire schedule for the eight days and nine cities down to the very last detail, and I wonder whether I shouldn’t simply take her along with me?—is a big, heavy Lincoln with Hetta at the wheel, a native New York woman in a suit and leather gloves. She drives into the Barrels like someone born and raised in the boroughs. The water gleams as blue as the Atlantic off the coast of Trévignon at sundown. I’m homesick. 
Another visit to PJ Clarkes. Holly, Frances and my waitress are more delighted with the French cigarette I’ve secretly slipped under the bill than they are with the> Later, after Frances has left, I watch a woman seated at a piano in the night, playing music on 62nd Street. For the first time, I wash a shirt and a dress. Living out of a carry-on. In the room next door, loud Americans (with boring stories) party until well past four-thirty in the morning and slam the doors. I consider yelling at them. Leave it be. I cry a little, sleep with silicone earplugs in my ears and the window open. The sun, rising five-and-a-half hors later, shines onto my naked> Blues. New York, I already miss you. And I don’t even know you very well. As I leave the Empire to meet the brilliant Crown ladies at the Brasserie Cognac (the book business is female—complete with glass ceiling just below the executive level; Germany and the United States are similar in this respect), I turn over the sign on my hard-partying neighbors’ door. From “Do not disturb” to “Please clean the room.” I never claimed to be> The Amtrak train races through green countryside, over bridges and water, past bare ground and along highways with enormous transformer trucks, under a Stephen King> The little girl has stopped screaming after two long hours, finally exhausted.
This evening’s venue: Politics and Prose, Washington D.C. We are getting closer to the rumblings.


Politics & Prose, Connecticut Avenue

It’s ten-thirty at night—after the show at “Politics & Prose,” which is perhaps the most politically uncomfortable bookstore in North America—and I’m standing in front of the brightly lit White House. A warm breeze dances around my bare legs. I’m hungry, but there’s nothing in a radius of ten blocks—not so much as a dim sum shop. I’m so tired, I might just fall asleep on the spot, leaning against a red cross-walk light post.

The Secret Service men (can you really call them secret when their agency name is emblazoned across their bullet-proof vests?) are mainly young, very young. Some circle the grounds on mountain bikes. They look me in the eye and nod as though I were somebody, someone that they know on her way home after work. I take a walk around the mansion. The white shirts that the young security lads wear under their dark vests and gun belts gleam in the darkness of the night. I am all alone on my walk, and I wonder where he’s sleeping in there. Whether he’s sleeping. What I’d do if I met him. And what purpose an encounter would serve (none, if I’m perfectly honest with myself).

More than ever before, I notice a kind of separation by skin color. The light-skinned people carry guns and work while seated at a desk. Those of dark complexion open doors and patrol perimeters. Or drive taxis and shuttles. At night, they sweep the floors of restaurants and takeout delis.

Brightly lit Capitol
The White House. It looks just like in the moves and TV shows. The “House of Cards.” Earlier, when I spoke to Abdul, the doorman at the Jefferson Hotel, and asked for directions, I mentioned that I wanted to go to the “House of Cards.” He laughed, half shocked, half appreciative. “The House of Cards,” he drew out the words. “True. But only recently.” He has a deep, throaty laugh. Every day, he stands at the door to the Jefferson and opens it for eight long hours. He gets in trouble, if the guests open the door themselves.

“Four blocks,” he says. It’s a safe neighborhood, he tells me.
“Fear is a bad advisor,” I reply, adding that I’m not afraid, except of people who arm themselves out of fear.

After I complete my walk around the House of Cards, I stand in front of it once more. Now I’m joined by a group of loud white Americans. I can’t help noticing that they’re all a few points past a healthy number on the body mass index. It’s as though they’re on a class trip to a barbecue, in the middle of the night. They take pictures of each other.

A small boy crows, “Look, dad! This is where our president lives!” “Yes,” the father replies with pride.
They must be tourists, I think. And this boy will grow up in an America that resembles a dystopian version of the 80s in certain respects. In some all too important respects.

Survival Guide
“Washington has always been a liberal city,” one of the booksellers at Politics & Prose on Connecticut Avenue told me earlier in the evening. He’d once lived in France and complained that there aren’t any French villages anymore. (If he only knew. But he wasn’t interested. Just as no one was interested in how I was to get home again or whether I was hungry.)

“If you see anyone running around Washington wearing a Trump hat, you can be certain it’s an American tourist.”
“Und doch,” says Katie, my hostess that evening. She thinks for a moment then adds, “Trump has torn down an invisible wall. He has paved the way for more and more celebrities to run for office over the next ten years. And they won’t know anything more about politics than he does.”

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has already hired his own campaign team. And potential candidates for POTUS have already made themselves heard from Hollywood.
Zuckerberg for President? Or perhaps Angelina Jolie? 

The bookstore devotes three long aisles to current affairs. A recording of super cool jazz is playing.
The store has a vinyl record section and a whole lot of politically themed giveaways.

Half the neighborhood is still hanging out here.
I regret that I never bought a “Pussy Over-Acting Figure” (I’m living out of a carry-on) or at least a survival guide to the Trump years. Not even a countdown meter showing how long America still has to put up with the man who washes up with “tiny hands” soap.
Countdown Check
The man about whom my current airport acquaintance, Barry Waters from North Carolina, has this to say: “The more social he is, the less civilized he gets.” Barry is referring to “social media.” Trump’s Twitter logorrhea, Barry tells me, is only a symptom of a bigger problem. “Everyone is on social media, and they’re becoming less and less civilized.”

He’s talking about anonymous trolling and face news, sloppy communication skills, digital distance instead of analog proximity. Trump’s tweet storms but also the way people withdraw from the world and sit isolated in front of their computer screens instead of talking to each other, getting to know people.

Barry is the kind of person who makes friends easily. A glance, a smile, a question, a conversation. Tinder for the pre-digital age. We smoke—Barry with his Pall Malls and me with my Marlboros. We flirt a bit, and by the time we part ways, he knows how the French say goodbye, including bisous—kisses on each cheek—and where he can find my books for sale.
He predicts that I’ll find the Pacific calmer than the Atlantic. I’d have liked to go swimming right then and there, with Mr. Waters. With his laugh and his optimism—despite everything. “No matter who is president, it doesn’t ruin your day. We need to stop acting as though we’re facing danger day after day. Life goes on.
Real Life Action Figures
Only rarely will we face a direct existential threat.” Barry dislikes grandstanders who place themselves in the center of every crisis and draw attention to this fact. And yet he gets worked up once more over Trump’s Twitter-rhea.

So back to Politics & Prose. My impressions: Extremely mellow booksellers. I was apparently as exciting as a delivery of new “How to Protest” posters. That is: not exciting at all. I feel neglected but not exactly lonely. All around me are people who read. They constantly start conversations with me. I could spend the whole night there debating everything: hair, prejudices, the refugee crisis, Indian food, the price of Washington real estate, authors who lack the courage to engage in political debate, nice boys and bad girls.

And also to “nasty women” – the meme was new for me: During one of the presidential debates last year, Trump referred to Hillary as a “nasty woman.” He meant it as an insult, of course, but she decided to embrace it as a badge of honor. Afterwards, “I am a nasty woman” became a rallying cry for progressive women in the resistance to Trump.

The basement houses a café with free Internet access and regular neighborhood debate clubs. Upstairs, an author puts in an appearance (daily!), and most of them address political themes. I’m shelved in the feel-good section. Still, I’m the artist with the most dynamic performance the roughly fifty or sixty guests have seen and read in a long, long time.
Time and again, I’m amazed to see the long lines for signing. I read at most two pages yesterday and talked off the top of my head the rest of the time. The give-and-take is on topic. (Microphones are always provided for the audience.) Intelligent, and what’s even better, ready answers to questions with plenty of heart and wit. That’s what you have to do to build your fan base—and take your time during a signing.

How are you? Instead of the usual “Oh, I’m fine? What about you?” (which I find boring), I always answer with the truth, which astonishes most people. Occasionally, they respond by telling me how they are doing. Over and over again, I have to talk about what I am reading, and I have a sneaking feeling that Washington may soon to receive a large delivery of novels by Véronique Olmi.

That night back at the hotel, Meredith asks if I’d sign one of my books for the Jefferson’s “Author in Residence” Club. They’ve quickly purchased a copy in my absence. The bookshelf contains the works of all authors who either have slept at the Jefferson, were introduced here or who appeared at Prose & Politics.
There are significantly fewer women than men.
Dinner in bed
I see Yann Martell and Umberto Eco. I ask Meredith: Was Umberto here? Really? She stares at me as though she can’t quite place Eco.
But later she makes sure that I get half a bottle of Sancerre for the price of a single glass, along with a plate of pasta, in my room. I eat my dinner in the enormous bed, read The Dinner by Hermann Koch and fall asleep, practically fork in hand.
Five-and-a-half hours later, my alarm goes off, and for a moment, I can’t remember why I’m supposed to get up shortly after six.

Oh, right: Chicago. I notice how much I cling to the food and drink from “home.” How I cling to my “aerial roots,” so that I don’t come completely unmoored in the strange otherness, the other language, other rituals, greeting ceremonies, ways of dealing with people, invisible rules. So that I don’t forget who I am. To avoid assimilating beyond recognition.
I think about the people who have fled or been driven from their homes. I think about their aerial roots, what they eat, drink, say, believe, their rituals and unspoken rules. And although I’d never attempt to compare my situation to theirs, I can nevertheless understand why people hold so firmly onto something of their own in a foreign place—why it’s so necessary.
“Surveys have shown that public opinion of America has decreased markedly since Trump took office,” reports the news channel on the taxi ride to Reagan International Airport. “Limited version of the travel ban to take effect,” says the Washington Post. All cab drivers I’ve meet over the past few days have been to Frankfurt or Berlin. Who is going to replace Angela Merkel? they ask. One says: “We’re counting on her!”

High above
Reagan International Airport is quiet and completely relaxed. I stand barefoot in the full-body scanner, hands above my head. It’s the pose you assume when you’re afraid of the police. I consider how the body’s posture affects the soul, and my soul cowers for a moment. I register a kind of unfamiliar submissiveness inside, an “is this okay, sir?”
I hold onto the feeling. Maybe fear and politics are deeply physical things. Or maybe I’m just overtired. There are hours when it’s like I’m wading through a dream. I’m not thinking, only absorbing, and I feel a wave approaching: overflow. One in every 20 passengers is pulled out of the line and screened thoroughly. And yet, I wonder why all of them have darker complexions than, say, I do. Coincidence?

At Hudson’s Booksellers , Circle by Dave Eggers, the Google dystopia of a too smart dictatorship, is a perennial bestseller. Veterans are allowed to board the plane before everyone else. Even before First Class. Their names are called out, and they’re thanked for their service, in the same unctuous tone one used to use for “Group A may board now.” Group Life Spent in the Military, you may board now. Eleven am local time.
High above the clouds. Another 27 minutes before landing. Please return your trays to their locked positions. From now on, I’m seven hours behind Europe. Lake Michigan gleams a shade of turquoise. Bill Young is already waiting for me. He lives three doors down from Hemingway’s childhood home and once hosted the French writer, Anais Nin —but that’s a story for another day.
Tomorrow. Later. Now.


Beach life
5:58 local time. Shortly after sunrise. Seven hours behind Europe.
They rake the sand. I roll out of the too wide bed at 5:34 am after five hours of sleep and half a Corona beer in lieu of dinner, awoken by light and a burning desire to breath real instead of conditioned air. Joggers along the beach path greet each other with a nod. Lake Michigan, America’s biggest fresh water reservoir glistens, clear and a light shade of blue.

Chicago. The Blues Brothers sing in my head. Chicago, you’re just like New York, only friendlier, more warm-hearted, more luminous. Cleaner. And you have your own small sea at the foot of the skyscrapers, its horizon too far away to see.
And Donald Trump hates you.

From the bottom of his heart—although yesterday Bill Young speculated that Trump doesn’t have a heart. “Trump lacks empathy. Compassion. He is on the side of neither the Democrats nor the Republicans.
Smile with Bill

All Donald Trump cares about is Donald Trump.” If America had shown up at the polls—the entire electorate or even only 70 percent—Trump would not be in the White House. America didn’t want Trump.
But Bill was too tired of everything to vote. He dropped out of school, as did I, and then took jobs in bookstores. He opened one of his own and brought authors to Chicago. He invited Anais Nin a year before her death. Also Barack Obama and Joanne K. Rowling.
We pass tranquil hours driving around in his Toyota. Downtown. To Naperville and back again. Several hours, quiet conversations interrupted by comfortable, intimate silence. We tell each other things from our lives, from our souls. Our words will remain in the silence that filled the car.

Chicago. A man stands at the intersection in front of the Water Tower. He’s yelling: “Could anybody help? COULD ANYBODY HELP?” Startled, I turn around. “It’s been too long since I took a First Aid class.” That was my first thought. My second: “How come I’m the only one who turned around?”
Then I realize it’s one of the beggars. He’s yelling and waving a plastic cup around. Later, after I’ve gone down to the lake for the first time, I’ll go back and give him seven dollars.
The same to the girl crouching on the other side of the street, curled into herself. She’s reading a book as she begs, leaning far over the pages. The city ebbs and flows around her, and no one tosses cigarettes onto the sidewalk.
Begging girl
A reading at Anderson’s Bookshop. I sign 100 books. They’re for a department store. Two more are for soldiers I’ve never met. They’re part of a nationwide program organized by indie booksellers to send books from all over the country to military personnel. “Stay safe.”
I write the words in all the books with a blue felt-tipped pen. Stay safe. I talk. Read. Answer questions. I’m given champagne. Word has gotten out that the author from Europe likes to drink during her performance. Once again, I blame it on jetlag. It’s midnight, my time, and I’m always tired, always fully awake at the same time. What does the Naperville crowd of only 35 people know about Germany? What do they like? The delicious cuisine. Schwainebrooten.
What about France?
We talk about second chances, character development, landscapes of the soul. Reading my books, they tell me, is like being there in person. Like tasting the food, smelling the aromas. Mary Ann quietly thanks me. She’s heard that I have a low opinion of Amazon. She doesn’t either. She sweeps an arm around Anderson’s.
This is what matters. She means the place, the women selling the books. Conversation. Browsing the shelves. I sign a pillar.
Not the one that George W. Bush immortalized. As did #44. Each president gets a number. So that no one forgets.
Even Bush wasn’t as terrible as Trump, Bill tells me. And that’s saying a lot. He despised Bush.

Aurora comes up to me and brings me full circle with Rachel Hildebrandt. Let’s plan to tell stories about real life.
Anderson’s Bookshop
Rachel is publishing my short story titled Das Herz des Menschen (Heart of Man) in English, U.S. edition at “Weyward Sisters”. Thanks to the German editor, Magnus, who once invited me to write a story about a Syrian heart surgeon from Aleppo and his escape to Werne, Germany.

Macarons are served later on. I get to pick out another book, and the doorman at the Drake greets me by my first name. Welcome back! He hugs me. I hug him back with all my might, as I always do. With everything I’ve got. He falls in love. I do not.

Europe slaps Google with a record-breaking fine. Google is the biggest employer in Chicago.
Trump hates Chicago because the city doesn’t love him. Because it mocks him.

A game of Frisbee on the beach. And rugby as well. Police officers patrol on quad bikes. A boy is playing the banjo. The Good Humor Man pulls his cart across the sand, bell ringing. No smoking on the beach. Fifteen bucks for a foot massage.

My alarm plays La Mer. The reading is over.
It’s time to return to the Drake, get up once again. Take a shower.
Bill will arrive at 8:00 am, and I’ll be off to the BookPeople in Austin, Texas.

The morning sun warms me.
Just a moment, please.
Let me take a breath just for a moment.
And we’re off.

Addendum: How are you? It’s not a question but a courtesy. Like saying ça va? Like Schönen Tag noch. It’s not a good idea to respond by listing all your problems.

AUSTIN, TEXAS 7:33 am, local time. Waiting area at Gate 3, Frontier Airline heading for San Diego. Motown music at the airport. Security is relaxed. 75 degrees at 5:15 am when my alarm quietly sings La Mer. The temperature climbs every half hour. It’s 80 by 6:30 and still rising. The air is damp and thick. It’s like breathing through a wet handkerchief. Later, on the plane, the air conditioning will spray a mist of condensation. Disco fog. Smoke on the water. Like always, soldiers on active duty get to board before everyone else.

On my walk yesterday—from Capitol via 2nd Street, zig-zagging back to Ella’s hotel—I seek out the shade, like everyone else, even under the slimmest of trees. The streets, too bright under the burning sun, are empty. Anyone who gets the chance, ducks into the icy indoors. Many people leave their engines running in their parked cars. Air conditioners run at full blast—the one in the hotel hisses like the Orient Express, simulates a stiff breeze. I love it. Henning from Berlin meets me for a frozen yogurt. He’s an intellectual property attorney, naturally. Later in the evening, I will give a talk on authors’ rights in continental Europe at BookPeople. The audience will love it and envy the way we European authors retain control over our work—even beyond the grave. Copyright is weaker than authors’ rights.

Smile with Clay
They sell frozen yogurt by weight. Not my weight but that of the toppings. Some drivers here stop next to beggars at intersections and hand them ice-cold bottles of water through their car windows. Austin. Liberal. Musical. Nobody here likes Trump. What’s more, they resolutely ignore him.

I receive catcalls for the first time on this tour.
The first one comes after my interview for the Kirkus Review podcast, which takes place in a tidy little house. Clay looks like Hugh Grant. He dresses like a Brit—not like any American I’ve met so far. It does my overtired eyes good.

Afterwards, I stand around in my blue-and-white Lauren dress, smoking, careful not to press too much air through that damp handkerchief. I look at the papier maché figures that someone hung up for a child’s birthday. They beat them with sticks until the fake skin bursts and candy rains down all around—just as a pickup truck rumbles past, the strapping sound of the SUVs here, which seem to get bigger all the time.
“Sexxxxx-yyy! Yee-haw!” a man calls out, honks and roars off. I decide to take it as a compliment. Kristen Holland, my hostess, laughs herself to pieces. She gave me cookies and apples to take along on my flight to San Diego.

Catcalls. I collect a whole range of calls downtown. Invitations to start a conversation. Unsolicited commentary about my appearance—all in that lyrical, drawn-out, American drawl. “Yeah,” they say instead of “yes.” Sometimes even “yah.”
Hey, beautiful. What’s goin’ on?
I don’t find it unpleasant. I’m nearly 44, and someday the time will come when they say: “You can still tell how beautiful she used to be.” The silly things that people say, thinking they’re being semi-charming.
So I take comfort from Austin, in Austin, where the trucks still honk at my backside.

Nice green dress, the cashier says. Maybe that’s the custom here, and we anxious Germans are just not used to people who notice when someone’s made an effort?

BookPeople is famous within the industry. It’s incredibly huge, with an incredibly diverse assortment. Author events every day.
They serve ice-cold sweet cider. Vince is here, as are Heidi’s translator friends. A woman plays me a two-minute message from her friend, Gailie. Another has been reading The Little Paris Bookshop for four months. She’s on her fourth time through, always starting all over from the beginning. Rebecca’s amazingly warm-hearted mother, who beta-read The Little French Bistro, hugs me, and I’ve been adopted for a moment.

I read, talk, handle the Q&A—they ask about my characters, my writing routine, pen names, how I come up with my titles. Craft questions.
Nightlife in downtown Austin. I’m 14 and play skip-to-my-Lou. Lecture the poor bartender on the fact that his Muscadet has cork taint. The night chirps around me, clings warmly to my skin. The city has come awake now at eleven-thirty pm — eating, dancing, cruising, promenading.

Not quite five hours of sleep.
When I reach San Diego, I’ll be eight (or nine?) hours behind Europe.
Europe, I’m living in your past.
You are my future.
I think about Stephen King. The story where the immediate past keeps get eaten away.
The Langoliers.

SAN DIEGO / LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA I’m lying on my bed at the rose-hued La Valencia Hotel — a room with a view.

Sea lions
Room with a view
Sea lions bark hoarsely. The Pacific surges and breathes in long, smooth waves. It’s nine hours behind Europe, and I’ve been awake for the past 20 hours. The night is black and thin-skinned.

I’m also in love. With five cities behind me, this is the first time that I feel so comfortable I’d like to stick around a while. Palm trees, ocean, French-styled patios, no excruciating traffic congestion. California.

The state where gluten is viewed with suspicion as the latest poison. Where no one smokes and every other bar is turned into a yoga studio.
Where I discuss Heraclitus, Hegel, Spinoza, the Big Bang, poetry and the difference between culture and lifestyle with a Persian cigarette vendor. Where people past the age of 50 miss driving the 12 miles to Tijuana without passing border control. Where they hang out at the beach, share a meal and simply enjoy life the way children do. Where people in shops address me as “my friend” and where the Navy is everywhere.
Country Club Menu
At noon, I’m scheduled for the Ladies’ Literature Lunch at Santaluz, right in the middle of a golf resort. The manager is French, from St. Malo. Chef Russell is a cutie, a surfer dude in chef’s whites. He developed a special menu for The Little French Bistro. Sixty ladies sample coquilles St. Jacques and shrimp rilette. Flowers on the tables reflect the colors of the book cover. Alcohol flows freely, and I decide to read half a page and improvise a standup comedy routine. “Never laughed so hard,” I’m told afterwards.
I sign books for an hour, while outdoors the silky blue sky hangs low over the dry and simultaneously green landscape. The resort has to keep its lights off at night; nearby, an astronomical observatory peers with a thousand eyes deep into the endless expanse of space that envelops us.

Ladies’ lunch. The valets who park the really huge, white, gold and beige SUVs are barely older than 21; who has three hours of free time on a Thursday afternoon? Some of the clothing exudes discreet wealth. The earrings. The manicures. At the same time, the women radiate an alert responsiveness. Straight talk. Constant eye contact as I sign their books. An astonishing number of them appraise my skin, ask why I look so young for a 44-year-old.
(At Warwick’s later in the evening, this question seems to be less intrusive than the desire to know my thoughts on the “current situation”—a Californian euphemism for Donald Trump, who is occasionally referred to here as “fucker,” even by frail, sun-wrinkled ladies.)
Ladies’ Literature Lunch
But back to the basic concept of youth. What’s good for the skin? “Champagne, gauloises, good food,” I reply. Startled shudders run through the crowd.

I love all these women. Their overabundance of warmth. Their willingness to be amused, under which lies a crystal-edged clarity. These are women who possess an inner strength, a purposefulness. This gathering, I have to admit, is a shining star on the entire tour. Eating, drinking, intelligent clowning around. In an exquisite setting with an understated, luxurious ambience and excellent service from staff who are warm, genuine and professional all at the same time.

Where in Germany would such a concept take catch on? In Hamburg, where the moneyed crowd hangs out? In Munich, where many a lady has enough free? Or would it not work at all? Maybe not in exactly the same way but with certain differences? Should we spend more time talking with our listeners instead of reading to them for 90 minutes? It took Elizabeth five years to make her idea take shape. I discuss travel bans with an Iranian literature professor named Poteh. We talk about the refugee crisis. He tells me that Germany is doing well in this area, better than other countries. He’s impressed by the way so many people volunteer their time to help out. Paris scares him. Terror. Scary. We arrange to get together in 2019. He wants me to give some lectures at his university.

Warwick’s ladies
Again signing
Don Winslow recently appeared at Warwick’s, La Jolla. “He said he was big in Germany — the David Hasselhoff of crime fiction over there.” Photos. A selfie. Jokes. Pain. The truth.
I’m suddenly overcome by fatigue. I put down my cell phone. Tomorrow it’s Danville/San Francisco. Yeah, Ma’am.

6:58 am, local time. Woke with a start at 6 o’clock after sleeping like a log for five hours. The Pacific ebbs and flows. The sea lion family shares the first news of the day. Colonies of birds. The air carries the scent of ammonia.
Like nearly all the stores I’ve visited, Warwick’s is under female management. The crowd asked questions for a whole hour. The last one had to do with Trump. Grumbling from the audience. A chorus of “No!” Trump is too ever-present for their taste. He rubs them the wrong way. I decide I’m going to affirm democratic values. Anyone — man or woman — can be president. That is the American Dream. Democracy. To vote for whoever you wish to as well. And to tolerate other people’s opinions. To live with the outcome of an election — even a non-election — means living in a democracy. To get involved. Engage with others. Debate. Educate. This is precisely what our times demand of us.
Warwick’s, La Jolla
Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that my speech is the only one that counts. Long applause. The woman who asked the question has brought along her dog, Andy. She has me sign the book for him. Julie and Mary Lee give me a four-pack of champagne and a bottle opener. They tell me they’d like to read more novels set in Berlin. Hear that, German book business? “It’s exotic.”

Mary Lee, my hostess at Warwick’s washes my sweat-stained clothes.
I sign a hundred books. Next week, I’ll be among the top ten on the Indie List. A couple, both over 75, dance the Tango Argentino. It’s the first time I’ve seen this on my travels through this big and varied land.
“What does success feel like?” someone asks.
It doesn’t help with the writing. On many a sleepless night, it makes me feel like I’m spinning across a vast expanse of space. It helps me give to others: time, energy, taxes, gifts.

And also the freedom to do whatever I want — although the courage to do what I want doesn’t come from a bank account. It comes from the same source it always did. And sometimes I feel as despondent and contrary as I did at 15, when my first boyfriend said, “You want to be a writer? Really? What makes you think you have anything important to say?”
It was never about having something important to say.
I write to gain an understanding of life. It’s so intangible—our existence. Does it have a purpose? Does it make sense? I always wanted to make a difference in my life. I wanted the random fact of being the four millionth person in the world to be more than a coincidence.
I will shine for some years. But in 200 years, or 400, I will just be another person in the nameless crowd. Like everyone. Like all of us. I find comfort in this. That way, I can exist in the here and now.
No one swims in the same river twice.
A Navy helicopter flies low over the Pacific. Slowly, I make my way back to the hotel.
How are you?
I’m tired. Wide awake. I swim through time, always moving forward and yet also backward.

SAN FRANCISCO Danville, June 30, Healdsburg July 1, 2017

Welcome to San Fran
When my media escort Deirdre greets me in chilly San Francisco, her first words are: “Congratulations on marriage equality.” Germany had just passed its “Marriage for All” law.
“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” Mark Twain once said. The famous fog that envelopes the Golden Gate Bridge so decoratively is often ice-cold and can give unsuspecting tourists a first-class case of the sniffles.

The drive to Danville in heavy Memorial Day traffic stretches out to a good two hours, although the return trip later that night takes us only 40 minutes. On the way, we pass through San Francisco: Nob Hill—Snob Hill—the low-rent districts, which are not so low-rent anymore, now that the price of a San Francisco lease has shot through the roof.
As has the number of homeless people living on the streets—including the ones with a job, who work in hotels or on cleaning crews. Even teachers can no longer afford the city’s high rents.

Deirdre tells me that the people who work at Facebook, Google and other Internet companies are driving up the prices. They are inundating the once affordable neighborhoods, earn good money and take the virtual world rather than the analog one as their religion. “Overpaid and under-civilized,” I murmur.
“You nailed it,” Dierdre agrees.

Big Browser's watching you
I notice that there are hardly any supermarkets around. Where do people go shopping? “On Amazon,” Deirdre grumbles.
Amazon, Uber, Google—the New York native rejects these concepts because they destroy entire living environments and thoroughly undermine markets with a whole range of destructive consequences. Higher rents and empty stores. Anyone not in the high-tech business has to work longer hours for less money, and yet they suffer enormously under the impact of restructured analog living space.

We drive up a mountain, whose name I’ve forgotten. Maybe Twin Peaks. The city spreads out below us. The wind is so cold that my legs still have goosebumps a quarter-hour later. But my head, my heart, soars free; the view is unforgettable.
Then we head for Danville, driving through San Francisco’s “Golden Hills,” dried out by last week’s heat wave. 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rakestraw Books in Danville. Small, neighborly, cramped. Something about this city makes me feel sad and aggressive. Or maybe it’s the hysterical lady who accosts me and yells that I’m smoking in a handicap parking space. I point to the ashtray stand that is positioned right in this spot.
She tries to talk a man into making me move on, but he ignores her.
Rakestraw Books Danville
No! Smoking!
The Starbucks barista tells me that she used to teach English in Mongolia. Her eyes are filled with globetrekking experience. She talks about hunting birds and horse races in Mongolia, about the women who prove their mettle as warriors, as clan chieftains.
Rakestraw Books has organized a dinner event. The sun comes out as Heidi walks across the parking lot. She’s driven two hours to get here from Cupertino. What a sweetie! Sending you hugs from the Scarlet Huntington Hotel.

I talk for five minutes after the charcuterie is served and 25 minutes after the main course. Q&A before and signing during dessert. I barely have time to eat. Actually, there’s no time at all. I notice with slight irritation that bookseller Michael fails to offer me water as I arrive. Instead, he shoves me out the door to wait until everything is ready. He introduces me so briefly, it’s no more than just my name. And when I ask if I can have a glass of wine before my talk, he smiles and ignores my request. During my reading, he’s texting on his cell phone. Everyone loves Michael. They describe him as creative and dedicated. To me, he seems like a little princeling in his paper kingdom, who feels nothing more than indifference toward me, the author from Europe. For the first time on the tour, I’m tempted to act the part of the petulant author and tell him just where he can shove his lukewarm “You were great” at the end of the evening.

But I don’t. Instead, I crank up the charm and mingle with the audience. From time to time, I pitch in and help clear away the empty plates and thus chat with everyone at all seven or eight tables. There’s a lot a laughter, plenty of questions. Patricia and I arrange to meet for tango lessons and wine tasting at her house in 2019. (Take that, Michael!) I become pen pals with Linda.

Nevertheless, it astonishes me to discover that details can hurt me, far more than open attacks. The glass of water not offered. The failure to say a few words about who the hell I am.
What did the audience appreciate the most?
When I told them that the idea behind The Little French Bistro was that life doesn’t end at 39 — a sexual, emotionally satisfying, love life continues at 40 and beyond. At first, some self-conscious clearing of throats all around. Then the roughly 50 listeners, mainly female, mainly on the far side of 55, 60, got into the groove. Spontaneous applause. “Yes!” rings out as once again I affirm that the desire for tenderness should not be restricted by the esthetic limitations of small-minded youngsters and the awkward conventions imposed on their elders.
Cable Car joy ride

San Francisco in the morning. I take the time to wander about for three and a half hours.

Music everywhere. Food from around the world: Indian, Chinese, French, vegan, gluten-free (of course). Sword swallowers. Bible salespeople. Alcatraz fans. Rickshaws. Cardboard figure of Donald Trump. Skateboarders. I’m the only smoker in sight.

Sunlight sparkling on water. Cable cars. I jump on the cable car heading for to “Fisher’s Dwarf.” The driver, Saul, glances over at me.
I tip Saul a dollar. He calls me sweetie, and from then on I get the seat with the best view throughout the tour.

Fisherman’s Wharf—Fisher's Dwarf. Beggars everywhere, relieving me of my spare change. I play around with old fortune teller machines, which crank out my future—nightclub hostess. Well, then. I meet Jack and his two cats in front of the Ferry Building. One of them looks like “Commissaire Mazan”, a feline character from our Jean Bagnol noves.

Tonight I will finally drink a California Sauvignon — in my ballroom-sized hotel room (no minibar).
But first there’s the final stop on my tour: Copperfield’s in Healdsburg.
Deirdre says she’ll call first and she’ll remember to organize water and wine. Sometimes Deirdre says things the same moment I think of them.
What will you be?
Smile with Saul
I struggle with the Air France app. I’d almost snagged an upgrade to Business Class. Only 280 euros for a sleeping pod on the ten-hour flight. But then the damned thing crashed, and I’m stuck with stretching exercises in the galley every two hours.

I’m looking forward to my return to Europe. I realize this. I’m looking forward to the coffee, the wine, the language, the music. Familiarity. Proximity to my inner self. My beach. The cliffs. The Breton sky. The majestic landscape. My novel.

And yet these days of travel will leave deep traces in my soul. I’ve brought along a few new dangerous thoughts.
More tomorrow.
I’m heading out now.

Final stop Another 6 hours until my departure from San Francisco --> Paris.
6:40 am, local time.

Good morning...
Tai chi on Nob Hill. Twenty elderly Chinese men and women push aside the clouds and pull the fox’s tail. At the distant end of California Street, the Bay Bridge is enveloped in cold morning fog.
I’ve woken up three hours earlier than I’d hoped, and I take the opportunity to chat on the phone with Anja Sieg, foreign correspondent for Buchreport. Local time in East Frisia, Germany: four-thirty. What do I find different about book tours in the United States? Does the audience value contact with authors? Is there anything the German book trade can borrow from the Americans? What impressed me?

This is what impressed me: The support offered by the readers. The desire to strike up conversations, ask questions—and good ones—craft questions, personal and political ones, questions focusing on specific aspects of the book. Not just global questions, such as “Where do you get your ideas?” I was struck by the sense of empowerment and encouragement. Authors are valued for their courage and creativity. Not viewed as addled fools or grandstanders. And these are not just the people who happen to be in the bookstores. Cab drivers, doormen, people I meet at the airport. None of the smug condescension you sometimes encounter in Germany. Oh… so you’re a writer. Instead, an interested “what’s your book about?” And always the heartfelt expression of desire for your success. To have one’s work taken seriously — that’s what impressed me.

But, wait a minute. I haven’t told you about Copperfield’s Books in Healdsburg yet. I couldn’t have wished for a better end to the tour. The store’s two cats (one of them is name Pi, like Π) wind themselves between my legs. Lola, the cashier dog pants in rapt attention. Two of the booksellers tell me they wept with joy and excitement on hearing that Crown was sending the author of The Little Paris Bookshop to their store. Their words deeply touched my heart. I learn that half of Healdsburg has read The Bookshop, and the small, congenial gathering of perhaps 40 or 45 people are so approachable with their easy laughter and many questions, that they make this final stop a warm, highly personal and intimate end to my tour.
Copperfield’s Books
Copperfield’s cat

Later, when only five of us are left in the shop, it takes us less than ten minutes to work our way through the 200 books waiting to be signed, The “Neil Gaiman Assembly Line” goes like this: One person opens the book to the page to be signed. The next person shoves it under the author’s waiting pen. A third person pulls the book away and hands it to the final associate, who places it on the stack.
On a visit to Copperfield’s, Neil once used this method to sign 1,200 books in 32 minutes. A monster job!

On the drive to Healdsburg, Deirdre and I stopped at Book Passage, where Deirdre works. Once again, I signed books like a bat out of hell. One customer who happened to wander into the bookshop (which has its very own café!) stopped short, eyes wide. She got to have “her” author all to herself for five minutes. She reads everything she can find that mentions Paris or France. Americans love novels set in Italy or Paris. And once again, I hear: “Oh yes! Berlin novels! How exotic!”
The recurring question: How do we get them translated? American publishers buy only 600 licenses to German books. Bestsellers. The proverbial eye of the needle.

Delicacies at Copperfield’s
At Copperfield’s, we’re served cheese, grapes and cupcakes. There’s lavender too. Tears. Hugs. Selfies. I go outside to smoke, come back inside. Drink champagne. Go out for another cigarette.
You are so European!
I must be the only woman who smokes in all of California. And yet I’m loading up on far less nicotine than usual, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.
The states that have the worst problems with painkiller abuse and the most deaths related to opiate overdose, those are the states where Trump won the most votes.

Authors don’t get paid for their readings in this country. Publishers pay the travel and hotel expenses only for certain authors. Even more rarely do they provide media escorts, and so I am very, very fortunate. At the same time, I question the way a narrow focus on bestselling authors limits the book market and its diversity even more. There are two sides to everything.
This means that any (indy) bookstore can easily present an author every day (!). Many bestselling authors, such as Amy Tan, live in the Bay Area and will “drop in” from time to time. Some bookshops even organize two or three author events daily. Literature lunches. Afternoon meet & greets. A show in the evening.
People from the neighborhood come to these events, and they turn the store into something that is as much a local hangout as a commercial enterprise. This month alone, Book Passage will be hosting Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan, Karin Slaughter and Danielle Steel.

Amazon has bought the organic supermarket chain, Whole Foods. Deirdre wonders whether she can ever go shopping there again. By where else can she go? Amazon wants to roll out an online food business. They intend to sell everything that can be sold; to ship it all by U.S. mail, courier and drone. A dystopia: no more brick-and-mortar stores anywhere. Only enormous, central warehouses, far outside the city limits, lots of security, buzzing with air conditioners, the products they contain ultimately unaffordable.

Copperfield’s cat
The traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge is so heavy it takes us an hour to cross it. Later, at night, it will simply pass us by in a flash. Few stars are visible. Fog. Light pollution. Most of my listeners tonight might travel to Brittany only for the chance to see the Milky Way. The distant, star-studded night skies…I pine for the deep, dark night at the end of the world. At the beginning of the world. I pine for the gentle charm of lush, green nature. The evolved history of European cities.
I long precisely for this: to live in Europe, the continent that bears so much history. The profundity of time, in urban and rural landscapes, legends. The cultivation of farmland and its products. I rarely ate a good meal in the United States. Which, for me, means delicious, quality ingredients.
A kingdom for a ripe melon. A full-flavored tomato. A decent loaf of bread. Salted butter from the cows of Normandy. Olive oil. Ripened cheeses.

It’s a young country, this America. I can taste it. Smell it. Sense it. In the “old world” that I miss, I never felt these things before. Old World. Deep-rooted traditions. A sense of the profound, developed over centuries and millennia. In the European mentality, landscape, architecture, politics and literature. In the way we deal with things worthy of conservation. There is a different kind of solidity to the European soul. There has to be a better way to express this. Stability comes to mind. Having a point of reference. Not just a faux presence but one that comes from deep within.

Indeed, America often seems to have a faux presence. Yeah, this is how we do certain things. Modern. Totally. It’s a digital world. Super healthy living. Anyone can be president, even Kanye West (who even hired a campaign team). This is our tradition—but it’s not a “tradition” at all. America has lifestyle and practices. Common grounds and trends. The American Dream.
What it doesn’t have is a presence that extends over thousands of years, the struggle for togetherness. The acceptance of the need for diversity. Cultural history.
The U.S. nation’s foundation extends barely two feet into new, brittle earth. Europe is built on many layers of bedrock with thousands of nuances. This stability, this depth, is what I miss the most here.
I’m trying to find a way to express it more concretely.
However, I also understand why disruptive markets gain such a strong foothold here.
They embrace destruction because they are unfamiliar with preservation—with preservation and its advantages. Modernity does not always mean smarter or better. Sometimes novelty is only something different or simply crap.
“To connect with people” is important, Deirdre says. It’s not just entertainment. It’s about connections. Any author who seems too distant, too narcissistic, to self-important, too shy, too fearful, will hate these book tours.

It’s all still a jumble in my head. Trump—not Trump. Bookstores. Freezing in air-conditioned rooms. Gluten-free. 25% tips. Huge SUVs. The intensity of the emotions that my listeners manifest to me. Security checks. Uber cars. Poverty—oh, God, the poverty of the homeless. The broken-down healthcare system. The absolutely terrible roads. Really, crappy roads everywhere. Potholes. Cracks. No “downtowns” anywhere. Traffic jams, long taxi rides, airports, upstairs, downstairs, traffic jams again. Half an hour to change clothes. Then on to the next place. Traffic jams. Show time.

Floating freely
Then again that warmth. Approachability. Straight talk. Connectedness. That part was easy for me—the give and take of striking up conversations. The poor in America will see their lives getting continuously worse. And yet: that warmth. Seeking moments of joy. Time is smiling in my hand. I float freely, a peculiar feeling, far beyond any reliable sense of time.
Many readers tell me that they weren’t even aware that I’m German—when they read my books, they thought I was French. Or English. I’m not sure what that says about authors writing in German, but I will think about it some more.

9:45 am, local time. I shower. Eat breakfast. My first full American breakfast instead of a coffee, cigarette, bagel and melon. This is not Trump's land.
This country doesn’t want that man. It doesn’t want him to represent it, to be governed by him. It is discovering the many different forms of rebellion—the sublime to explicit resistance. It is discovering feminism as a political necessity. It is discovering Europe and Germany as role models. It is learning what media can really do. Even Teen Vogue is getting political.
America is discovering itself, or so it seems to me. It is entering the age of a new enlightenment.

By this time tomorrow (6:47 pm European time), I will be back home. It will take my soul a bit longer than that. In September, I’m off to the Ukraine. World, I’m encompassing you.
I shouldn’t cry yet—the tears of overflowing sensation. Porous raw feelings because I travel with all my senses switched on and my emotions switched off.
Just now, I almost succumbed. I’m holding the sob firmly in my mouth.
Coming home. Home.

“Just finished this beautiful book of love and healing. It's a little treasure. I will enjoy selling it in June. Wish it were available for Mothers Day.”
Joyce Gerstein at The Book Bin

“Everyone should have access to a “literary pharmacist” to prescribe the perfect book for what ails them. Bookstore owner Jean Perdu is a victim of a long ago heartache. While he can cure others, he is unable to quench his own grief. When Perdu's life collides with a reluctant celebrity author, a chef, a neighbor with her own lovelorn past, and an unopened letter, he finds himself launched on a journey to reawaken his life before it is too late. Nina George's novel is a love song to literature and its curative powers. Launch yourself on a trip with Jean Perdu and company. THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP is a journey worth taking.”
Pamela Klinger-Horn from Magers and Quinn and Excelsior Bay Books

“A perfect book for booksellers, lovers, francophiles and the like. I could underline every other sentence in this lovely and delicious novel. An utter delight!”
Annie Philbrick at Bank Square Books

“I absolutely LOVED The Little Paris Bookshop. This book is so well written and beautiful. It is unlike any other book set in Paris that I've read. Not only is it a wonderful book, but it is a great book for book lovers. Aren't those the most fun? I love that it is the story of a bookseller who not only puts a book in the hand of a reader, but a book that will speak to each individual, and comfort them in their own unique way. “Perdu reflected that it is a common misconception that booksellers looked after books. They look after people.” Thank you SO much for sending this gem my way. I am so thrilled that RH will be doing a Paris display this year. In Healdsburg, I often have a Paris display up, and I cannot wait till this book is front and center. It is truly a special novel that I can't wait to start recommending.”
Kaitlin Smith, Copperfield’s, Healdsburg

“The title is a bit of a misnomer – it should really be called “The Little Paris Bookshop Takes On The World.” The main character, Jean P., buys a floating barge and turns it into a floating book apothecary. He believes that books can heal you, and has the ability to read a person’s soul and figure out what book to prescribe them. However, after losing his love twenty years previously, he has turned himself off to any emotions. When he un-moors his little bookshop from the shore and goes on his adventures, he brings a writer with writer’s block and encounters a host of other characters on this voyage. His travels awaken the passions he has forgotten, and through food, dancing, thinking and looking, he finds what he has been missing for so long.”
Christy P of BookPeople

“Over the weekend I finished Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. I really enjoyed this one! I was a little hesitant because the cover seemed a bit…fluffy, but I am so glad I dove into the story and let it sweep me away. I was super intrigued by the Literary Apothecary, and I love the idea of prescribing books to heal a soul; that’s what we do! Nina does an amazing job with integrating positive and negative characteristics into the characters, as well as bringing the story arc to a satisfying conclusion. I would love to see this on the Indie Next list!”
Colleen at Joseph-Beth in Lexington

“I really enjoyed the Little Paris Bookshop - It would be a very fun movie because of all the quirky characters and the Paris countryside - going through the canals etc. It would be a fun “light” summer book group selection. There is plenty to chew on regarding how we deal with grieving and living! Actually this is the first book I was enthusiastic about for awhile and I'll enjoy recommending it.”
Polly Gorder, Book Passage, Corte Madera

“A testament to love—lost, sought, and found—and the healing power of books, the tango and Provence. We meet aging bookseller Jean Perdu dispensing novel prescriptions for all the travails of the heart from his floating literary pharmacy moored along the banks of the Seine. We join him and a writers’ block beset author phenon, in their odyssey down the canals of France. Wise, humorous and heart breaking, The Little Paris Bookshop joins last year’s gem, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, in that small clutch of novels that celebrate small bookstores and the treasures they hold.”
Susan Voake, Norwich Bookstore

“Booklovers and booksellers unite! I so loved The Little Paris Bookstore, and was so enchanted when I finished it last night; but I felt with utter trepidation, how in the world can I find another book as engrossing and beautiful? We take a voyage on a barge/bookshop down the Seine on a mission of love and loss. Our protagonist refers to himself as "the literary apothecary", as he is a man with such love for literature and remarkable insights into his customers interior struggles and needs, that he has the uncanny ability to thrust just the right book which will help and heal the customers' anxieties. I really identified with him, because part of the love I have as a bookseller is to pick our customers' brains (in a friendly, non aggressive way) to help them find the right book. Just the other day, for example, a woman confided in me that she is going through menopause, and could I help her find something soothing to read. Back to the book, What happens when a man, who for 21 years, mourns the desertion of the love of his life, and leaves, unread, his lover's letter to him on her departure? There is so very much wisdom here (and a little sex as well). The ending is such a treat, and such a surprise. Thank you so much for sending it to me. I can't wait for its publication when I can share the joy of reading it with others. It is both heartbreaking and breathtaking.”
Darby Collins-Smith, Books & Books FL

“Hits the sweet spot of bestsellers – it’s about old Europe, it’s about a bookseller, it’s got Paris in the title…and it’s got that kind of woo-woo mystical thing going on, like that other big translated fiction title The Alchemist.”
New York Times | Sunday Book Review, Inside the List, "Best Regards"

“Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, Nina George’s impressionistic prose takes the reader on a journey not just through the glories of France and the wonders of books, but through the encyclopedic panoply of human emotions. The Little Paris Bookshop is a book whose palette, textures, and aromas will draw you in and cradle you in the redemptive power of love.”
Charlie Lovett, author of The Bookman’s Tale

„Must read Number One: The Independent (UK)”

„A beautiful story of grief, companionship, forgiveness and building a life worth living. A vulnerable, relatable tale of great love and loss, missed opportunities and moving on, The Little Paris Bookshop is, like the books its main characters recommends, medicine for the wounded soul.”

„New & Noteworthy”
USA Today

„You just have to read it, trust me!”
The Armchairlibrary |

„I would definitely recommend this to any book nerd out there, or anyone who would describe themselves as a bit of a dreamer. It’s brilliant!”
Hello Magazine I The Blog |

USA Today II - It's an Indie Next Pick of independent bookstores, natch. "A journey worth taking," says Pamela Klinger-Horn of Excelsior Bay Books in Excelsior, Minn.

„I’m just back from a week of blue skies and sparkling seas where I read a real gem of a book that is my book of the year so far. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George is superbly written and flows effortlessly. You read and reread phrase after evocative phrase. I couldn't’ put it down. The characters lingered long after I had finished it and the sense of time and place made me want to book a flight to Paris immediately. Jean Perdu runs a bookshop from a beautifully restored barge on the Seine. It is no mere bookshop in Monsieur Perdu’s eyes. To his customers it is a ‘literary apothecary’ to soothe their troubled souls. But Monsieur P cannot cure his own secret grief. When an enigmatic new neighbour comes to live in his apartment building on Rue Montagnard his life is changed completely. You will LOVE it. ”
Patricia Scanlan, Like Magazine (UK)

„A book for lovers of all things French, especially of a leisurely journey by barge through France's beautiful countryside.”
Illawarra Mercury

„You do not have to a book-lover to enjoy this particular work.”
Ballarat Courier

„A floating Bookshop on the Seine and a troubled man ‘prescribing’ books to his customers to ease their troubled minds. The unearthing of a long lost letter from his lost love prompts him to reclaim his own life. A book filled with a plethora of emotions, loved it! ”
Dymocks Lane Cove

„Filled with humour and joie de vivre, it is a joy to read. Yet its themes are serious – friendship, lost love, grief and new beginnings.”
Sunday Star Times.

„Nina George clearly believes in the power of the novel to fix what ails you.’”
Book of the Week, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.

“The idea of books as a cure for all sorts of ailments lies at the heart of this quirky story about bookseller Jean Perdu, who runs a bookstore called The Literary Apothecary from a floating barge on the Seine.”
Review, Weekend Herald.

„This is a powerful and thought-provoking study of loss, of grief denied, of the meaning of friendship, of letting go and starting again.”
Review, Your Weekend.

„There is pleasing gentle humour, amusing characters and lots of French-ness to appeal to Francophiles.”
Review, Herald on Sunday.

„Parisian bookseller Jean Perdu has a rare gift; he can sense which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers. But he has nursed a broken heart for 21 years after the love of his life fled Paris, leaving a handwritten note Jean has never dared to read. Now might be the time to find his beloved. For fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry says Little, Brown.”

“Filled with humour and joie de vivre, it is a joy to read. Yet its themes are serious – friendship, lost love, grief and new beginnings.”
Interview, Sunday Star Times.

“Nina George clearly believes in the power of the novel to fix what ails you.”
Book of the Week, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.

“The idea of books as a cure for all sorts of ailments lies at the heart of this quirky story about bookseller Jean Perdu, who runs a bookstore called The Literary Apothecary from a floating barge on the Seine.”
Review, Weekend Herald.

Writemag: "I did not want it to end"

‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ is such a wonderful tale of love, life and loss, with plenty of literary references for every possible ailment. It really is a marvel – and one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen in a while!

‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ - all TUMBLR-Reviews

“This is a powerful and thought-provoking study of loss, of grief denied, of the meaning of friendship, of letting go and starting again.”
Review, Your Weekend.

“There is pleasing gentle humour, amusing characters and lots of French-ness to appeal to Francophiles.”
Review, Herald on Sunday.

“I haven't reread a book in ages. I have so many books on my TBR list that it seems silly to not move on to the next. But as soon as I turned the last page of this sweet book, I turned it over and wanted to start it all over again. I'm jealous of those who get to read it for the first time. ...”
Bethany, Goodreads
More rewiews from goodreads
Follow Nina George on Goodreads goodreads

“This book is a journey that leads straight to the reader’s heart. Sappy as that may sound, it is the absolute truth.”
WDR, Christine Westermann, July 14, 2013

“A clever, moving novel”

“Hamburg author Nina George deserves our respect. She masterfully sidesteps the potential for trashiness inherent in her material and instead tells a story that is as poetic as it is charming. The novel is filled with highly quotable observations about life and death, fear and sorrow, friends and friendship. It is a euphoric declaration of love for literature as the “food of life,” complete with a literary “first-aid kit” at the end of the book. Summer reading at its finest!”

“A wonderfully charming book”
SAT 1 FRÜHSTÜCKSFERNSEHEN, 9/3/2013 - Peter Hetzel

“A charming and moving story!”

“A terrific story about love and hope.”
TV MOVIE, 5/24/2013

“A captivating, passionate novel. (...) An experience that lends itself to dreaming!”

“A delightful beach read! [...] Tears were running down my face as I devoured the last page, and I wished there had been a warning on the cover: ‘Caution: May lead to tears.’ Good thing there wasn’t a warning after all, because then I might not have read the book. Likely I’d have given the novel a pass and missed a truly entertaining story. Life’s inherent beauty is what makes it worth living—and sorrow is part of the deal.”

“In my view, this is a novel with outstanding literary merit. One must devote time to the reading of it, since the story works its way into the soul. The most welcome surprise I’ve had in a long time! Not to be missed!”

“Engagingly entertaining, wonderfully enticing to all the senses. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is an experience that will make readers thank their lucky stars.”

“A wonderful novel about life and the power of love.”

“This tragic yet endearing story follows the life of the Parisian bookseller, Jean Perdu. And yet it is far more than a mere romance novel dominated by love and loss. Nina George’s masterful storytelling allows the reader to grasp the real meaning of ‘savior vivre,” to experience a fascinating cruise along French canals and feel the magic of Provence. In the end, you will be all set to pack your bags.”

LEA, 6/5/2013

GONG, 6/7/2013

“With this lyrical novel about love and life, power and books, Nina George delivers a tale that will delight and enchant readers and transport them to the wonderful world of Provence.”

“A story that does the heart good.”
GRAZIA, 6/20/2013

“Nina George does a outstanding job of immersing the reader directly in France’s unique flair. Many locations in Paris—the city’s streets and alleys, the neighbors living at No. 27 Rue Montagnard, the concierge—it all feels so intimate. This novel deserves the highest praise.”
BUCHTIPS.NET, 6/24/2013

A romantic and emotionally compelling read.”

“A charming, literary journey that touches the reader’s soul. A tale of love, life and the courage to have faith in oneself and take a chance.”

“The notion of a literary apothecary, where books are sold as medicine, is as original as it is clever. The author describes the characters, some of whom are rather shady, with sensitivity and humor, making them come to life before the reader’s eyes. All told, The Little Paris Bookshop is a compassionate and thoughtful story with a measure of humor, told in a finely nuanced style. It is a truly lovely book, a light read but also a thought-provoking one. An excellent vacation entertainment—even for those who stay at home.
NDR 2, 7/14/2013

“Nina George’s novel is a book that offers comfort to those who have lost something important in their lives and who must learn to live with loss. (…) The captivating voice turns the novel into a real page-turner. One can literally smell the scent of lavender and feel the warmth of sunny Provence. A wonderful tale about love and life.
SUITE101.DE, 6/6/2013

“The Little Paris Bookshop is a novel for everyone who loves books. It is a love story told with compassion.”
FREIE PRESSE, 7/19/2013

“A narrative that flows effortlessly, combined with moments of downright immediacy that carry the story like a melody and yet serve a deeper purpose than merely framing the scenes and situations, avoid a narrow focus and give the book a broader scope. Kudos to Nina George—I am impressed.”

“The author’s facility with the language involves all the senses. The result is an enchanting love story filled with poetic force.”

“The Little Paris Bookshop is a thoughtful, compelling and humorous story. The strong voice and frequently lyrical language lend the novel a special charm.”

“The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is a beautiful novel about the magic of books and love.”

“An enchanting, thought-provoking story.”

“The Little Paris Bookshop is a novel with many wonderful elements. It is beautifully written, tells a moving story and transports the reader to the lovely region of Provence, including detailed descriptions of fine food and the “art de vivre.” A marvelous beach read!”
MADONNA, 7/17/2013

“The Little Paris Bookshop is one of those books that you can’t help loving. Wonderful characters and plenty of Provençale flair make one just a bit homesick—but in the best sense of the word. You could easily imagine finding the novel in Jean Perdu’s literary apothecary.”
DER SONNTAG, 8/4/2013

“A wonderful book.”

“A truly beautiful book, one that shows how important it is to ‘grieve’ and that it takes time to work through one’s grief.”

“In writing The Little Paris Bookshop,” Nina George delivers a wonderful, sensitive novel that is as charming as it is spellbinding. A terrific story about life, love, pain, sorrow, despair and above all—hope.”

“A charming novel about love and the power of books.”

“A beautiful novel for those who are unhappy in love or looking for consolation and anyone who loves a good story well told—a road movie filled with magic, light and sunshine.”

“The scenery of southern France will put you in the mood for a vacation.”

Writer's life
We have a traditional, typicial German view on literature: The “E” and the “U”-Literature, and the old, unnecessary fight of the “genius” writer against the working writer.

“E” in german stands for “ernsthaft”: serious, significant, well written, important”. U, in other words “Unterhaltung” (Entertainment), is the second-best-literature – chewing-gum for the brain, not serious, “low”. Even John Le Carré would have been classified as a “U”-Author, as well as John Irving, Patricia Highsmith and Marguerite Duras.

And then there is the The Double-Effect: If you are a woman (these creatures with so much emotion), writing in the so-called “entertainment-genre” and published in a traditional “U”-Publishing House – you will never, ever, ever win a renowned literary prize, you will never win the hearts of the critics that ‘matter’ and as result you will be under-estimated forever.

Read more: pen INTERNATIONAL | March 9 2018 at 11:41 am
It disrupts marriages and irritates Muggles. At its best, it strips nice people bare and drives them to drink in desperation. It demands nothing less than their very lives and in return it delivers relentless doubt and a precarious livelihood. In short, it is the writing life.
Nina George, international best-selling author and BücherFrau member, delivered the keynote address titled On Writing before the 140 established and emerging authors attending the Deutsche Schreibtage 2014 (German Writer’s Conference) in Berlin. Excerpts of the address now appear for the first time on the BücherFrauen blog.

“What? You want to be a writer?!” my grandmother exclaimed. “Good lord, that’s no way to catch a husband.”
Which brings us to the first truth about writing. You will have to resolutely turn your back on ordinary reality and toss out the rules, advice and fears of non-writers.

I’ve been a professional writer for 25 years—since the age of 19. Now that I’m 44, I have been a writer longer than a non-writer. Since the age of 16, not a single week has passed in which I did not write or think about what I was going to write, not a week where I did not revise what I had written or speak about the writing process. Throughout it all, I have been driven by a profound sense of doubt: Am I getting to the truth? Am I expressing this truth clearly enough? What should I write about tomorrow? A life like this cannot help but leave its mark on a person’s psyche.

All the sex we writers describe. The murders planned and carried out on the page. So many yearnings, the foul moods, the glorious euphoria, the desperate search for words. So much living and observing, the plundering of our inner selves—all for the sake of telling a story! The alcohol, the long nights, the endless doubts. Who is going to read this? How will I survive the night if I can’t come up with even one line of truth? A former colleague of mine, who unfortunately passed away, once told me: “Honey, writing is not for the faint of heart.”
So what is writing all about? (Apart from being one of the three most dubious professions, right up there with journalism and politics.)

Ten things you should know about the writing life:

Ernest Hemingway wrote in the nude, even while standing up. Victor Hugo used to lock himself in his room naked while writing the Hunchback of Notre Dame. James Riley wrote in the buff to prevent himself from heading down to the bar and tossing back one drink after another, while Agatha Christie plotted cold-blooded murder while lying naked in a hot bath. But this external nakedness is not what I’m talking about. I mean the internal kind.

It’s often difficult to put one’s finger precisely on what sets a good book apart from an unforgettable, moving story. It isn’t the word choice, voice, pacing or characters. No, it has to do with the author’s inner force, the attitude that the writer brings to the storytelling. This force, this attitude, is what I call daring to be naked.
The more an author strips herself bare—brazenly, clearly and bluntly saying what she (or he) really wants to express with meaningful, carefully chosen words and heartfelt, unfiltered emotion—the more powerful the story will feel.
Beginning writers shy away from literally stripping themselves bare, especially when it comes to the dark, unsettled aspects of life. When it comes to sex. Or the desire to kill. Overindulgence in alcohol. Envy. The feeling one gets when two men kiss. The brutality of childhood. The drive to commit suicide, the fear of death, the smell of the hospital floor where a loved one lies dying.

After all, the more authentic the writing, the more naked and exposed the author feels, and she may have to put up with questions like, “Do you really write about sex? Have you done all those things yourself?” Or: “Why do you write about murder so much? How does your husband feel about that?” Or even: “Is your story autobiographical in some way?”

A writer has to be able to endure this sort of thing.
Anyone who wishes to write about dangerous, unconventional, difficult things, about things that go beyond social conventions, will strip herself bare. Every time. If not, her story will be intolerably tedious, since by trying to please everyone, she will inspire no one.
Life is too short for feeble stories that stomp on the literary brakes. Take a stand! Strip yourself bare!

By the way, it helps to write in the nude from time to time. Try it sometime. Maybe not right this minute…wait till you get home. Which brings us to a point that is closely related to being naked:
A writer needs three things: paper, a pen—and a room of her own. A physical space, but also a temporal, intellectual one. In any case, one that is private. I have an Israeli colleague whose house is bursting at the seams. Whenever he enters “his” mental writing room, he puts on an enormous purple hat that belonged to his grandmother, which sends a message to his five grandchildren: I’m not here. The children respect this magic trick, and the hat gives him space to think.

A friend of mine who writes crime fiction seeks out the Berlin University Library. Jonathan Franzen rents an office on an industrial estate for each novel and works on an old IBM laptop without Internet access. When a Hamburg-based author lies on the couch and stares at the ceiling, her children have learned to read her message loud and clear: “Mom’s not sleeping, honey. She’s working.”

A colleague in Edinburgh is a pedicurist in his other life. While massaging other people’s calluses, he’s thinking about his next novel and sits down to write it in his empty salon after hours, before heading home to the noisy apartment he shares with roommates.

A room of one’s own—you’ll find them everywhere. Claim one for yourself. When your children are out of the house, the play room is yours. Make it your refuge. Writing needs privacy, but not everyone can afford to build her sanctuary next door to the bedroom.

A room of your own is the living space for your writing, a refuge for the mind. It gives you independence and the solitude you need to finally hear your own voice. You are free here, behind closed doors. It’s where you can be wicked, excited, crazy, childish without anyone watching. Where you can be YOURSELF.
It is unfortunate, but women in my workshops often tell me that the men in their lives feel threatened by their writing, disparaging it as merely “typing” or “scribbling.” The object of such jealousy is an activity in which, to the man’s annoyance, SHE has no need or desire for anyone. Or perhaps it is an occupation that builds a better world than the one he has to offer. There are many reasons why men resent their partners’ artistic achievements.

These women get up two hours earlier than usual in the morning in order to write in secret on the top of the toilet tank; they write while riding the train to their primary jobs; they hide their notebooks in laundry detergent boxes. A few men told me about girlfriends whose jealousy drove them to wipe their partner’s hard disks clean of files. The author May Wilson once said, “I left my husband for my art long before he left me for other women.”

All art—writing, painting or composing—demands a piece of you. If you don’t give art what it wants, it will torment you more than your husband does.

Unless you are willing to give up your writing—or your husband or wife—you must learn to manage an open ménage a trois. Both relationships require time, attention—and love. They both do.
Writers are twice as likely to develop a serious drinking problem than non-writers. Two or three drinks make it easier—apparently—to trust one’s ideas, to tap the well of creativity and above all to open the door to that otherworld from which our stories flow. Alcohol is the ticket to transcendence.

Not only is writing bright, passionate, pure, rational and intellectual, it is also dirty, demonic, fear-inspiring. Drinking while writing was long considered essential to creativity. Normal people wake up the morning after and groan, “Oh, my poor head…” Authors say, “Oh, what a terrible chapter…”

I’m not going to encourage you to either to indulge or to abstain. Let me just say this: I’m damned happy I’ve learned to write without cigarettes and can face my demons without a drink in hand.

However, one thing I do want to impress on you is this: Never use social media while drunk.
Artists practice many rituals to get into the right frame of mind for writing. Since muses rarely show up from 9 to 5 to offer their input and deliver a profusion of words, authors must keep preparing their minds and souls for the creative and revision process on a daily basis. Writing often demands discipline, resistance to distraction and forcing oneself to buckle down to work day in and day out.

Colette liked to delouse her cats before writing. Schiller sniffed dried apples. A colleague of mine cleans her kitchen—and many others read passages in a book.

The best choice is a book they hate, one that is so bad it boosts their confidence in their own creative abilities.

Or they pick a book they love and admire. A book they’ve been reading every day for the past 30 years. Most importantly, one that brings forth that internal buzz, the state of relaxed tension in which free writing comes so easily. These books are motivational reading, far removed from the writer’s own voice, plot and inner life. They are catalyst books. I turn to authors such as Jon Kalman Stefansson, Anna Gavalda, Dominique Manotti  and Erica Jong to induce the buzz when it’s absent. What’s more, unlike alcohol, you can indulge early in the day.

What is your catalyst, the book that entices and seduces you, that motivates you to write?
When it comes to handling criticism—from agents, writing coaches, editors, reviewers, critics or your own mother—one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard comes from a book by Dorothea Brande, written in 1934: Becoming a Writer.

Her advice is to split oneself into two personalities. At least two. One personality is the artist, complete with all her complexities—childish playfulness, curious enthusiasm, passion, narcissism, unplumbed depths, sensitivity, boozing, unbridled desire to create. This is the side that absorbs the world and writes. The other personality, strictly separated from the first, is the inner censor, the internal critic—or, as I like to call her: the skilled craftswoman.

This part of you is not strictly required during the writing process, Brande says. You need her for revisions, which can begin only minutes after creation. Sometimes, the two sides switch off so rapidly that you are hardly aware of the transitions. You need the craftswoman—the critic—in the planning stage and in dealing with self-imposed or external critiques. If activated too early, however, your inner censor will slow down the creative process by offering comments such as: “Who would ever want to read this … what makes you think you can do this…your mother will be horrified...”

If you cannot avoid criticism, call forth your inner craftswoman. She is the only one capable of separating the work’s quality from its creator and the context from which it emerged. After all, when reader comments or criticism hurts us so terribly, it’s only because we absorb the words in our role as sensitive, damaged, vulnerable artists. Not as craftswomen who can clearly tell overly subjective comments apart from constructive criticism.

Beware of becoming so thin-skinned and vain that you avoid or disregard criticism of your work. Develop a strong, knowledgeable, emancipated craftswoman deep inside, and I promise you in all sincerity that feedback will never again wound you to your very soul. Because the craftswoman is able to differentiate between criticism that is important, unimportant—and utterly nonsensical.
Now and then, journalists ask me where my ideas come from or whether I have a very fertile imagination. Usually, I refer them to this website: www.guteideenfü (Good Ideas for Writers). Or I tell them the truth: I don’t make anything up.

It’s all real. Because I pay close attention to the world around me. For a long time now, I haven’t had to invent anything—it’s all there, in abundance, in this world and all the others. Writing does not mean searching deep inside yourself. For me, the essence of writing is careful observation.

Seeing. Hearing. Listening! Feeling. Empathizing. Sympathizing. Putting oneself in another’s shoes. Not overthinking. Thinking. Reflecting. Sometimes letting yourself be driven to thoughts, that erratic thinking you experience just before falling asleep, when everything you’ve heard, seen and read undergoes a chemical reaction and gives birth to an idea. Perception of the world.

Perception is always a matter of desire. Some people really don’t enjoy sitting in a drafty café and watching people, which, by the way, is an activity that never led me to single idea. I prefer to watch people in the sauna or shoppers in an H&M clothing store as they admire themselves in the mirror. Or the way restaurant patrons treat the waiter when they’re trying to impress someone.

Everyone has their own special way to perceive the world. Feelings fly at me; all my senses are hyper-sensitive, which is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. My husband is extraordinarily good at interpreting silences. Find out how you perceive your world—are you a visual or auditory person? Do you feel deeply? What you absorb and how you absorb your surroundings is the source from which you draw your stories, your characters, colors, landscapes, sounds.

This is why narcissists rarely write good books. They are always writing about the particular landscape of their navels.
It took me around eighteen years to discover what I really wanted to write about. Over the years, I’ve had plenty of time to practice and thereby develop the ability to write about what truly interests me. My writing routine and moxie are well developed, practiced, and I’m now ready to plumb more (thematic) depths.

In my opinion, one of the two life-long missions that a writer must undertake is to discover her real theme—and to simultaneously flex her writing muscles in order to reverently refine this theme to the best of her ability and turn it into literature. It is what he or she must want to learn over the course of a lifetime. No matter how long it takes.

Giving up is not an option. Remember: writing = not for the faint of heart.

It took me 20 years to become famous overnight—from 1993 to 2013, when The Little Paris Bookshop landed on the bestseller list. This long journey was necessary. I had to live, write a great deal, love and weep. I had to lose everything before I could write what I was capable of, what really interested me. Everyone must follow their own journey. Usually a painful one.

The Little Paris Bookshop was the result of a breakthrough. I’d always known I wanted to write about death, about the fear of death and how this fear holds us back from living life to the fullest. This is my theme, and I will return to it over and over again.

In the coming years, find the answers to these questions: What am I compelled to write about? And: “What am I able to write about? These things are not always the same. Sometimes you have to hone your skills before you can address your true interest as a writer to the best of your abilities. Let me submit two requests—with due consideration and yet conviction:
1. Never imitate another writer.
2. I forget.
Add your own rule here ________________________________________, because writing is also this: Never listen to those who have made it. After all, no two people follow the same route to success. Yours will be different than mine, different than Nele Neuhaus’s, and Stephen King’s.
I spent four or five weeks thinking about this 30-minute speech, feeling my way into it. I talked to colleagues about their writing. I revisited the turning points in my writing life. I reread books where authors reported on their lives as writers. How they drank too much, loved, failed and worried. How they got their butts in gear and how they lost face. I drowned myself in the sources—this short speech emerged from dozens of hours spent thinking, reading, discussing, dreaming, remembering, deciding and leaving a great deal unsaid. And writing is like that too: Accept that you must make a decision and are never able to tell the whole story.

You book, your short story, is only the tip of the iceberg. The countless hours you spend feeling, thinking ,researching and revising remain hidden from view.
Because to write—come on, YOU…want…to write? You, of all people? You want to practice this…at best…exotic hobby? Shouldn’t we leave it up to someone like Günter Grass? Isn’t it for people who have something to say, or even worse, who think they have something to say? Who do you think you are, dreaming that you can do this? Do you really have what it takes? Is there even anything left to be said? Do you actually think you could write the next Harry Potter? You? Are you trying to get rich or something? Give me a break!

When a person admits that he or she is going to write something—this incredibly thrilling, joyful, heroic confession leaves the people around them with a queasy, disturbing feeling. If you spend much time with people like this, you notice something else. They feel less and less capable of writing. They’re crippled. Oppressed. Congratulations: They’ve fallen victim to belittlement.

Beware of people who want to bring you down. In the face of doubt, guard your secret of becoming a writer.

Set up a writers’ group in your neighborhood. Even if you have only two members, you will breathe more easily, think more clearly and write better if you occasionally get together with likeminded people who enjoy exploring worlds. This is the place where no one will look at you with scorn, pity or bafflement simply because you want to write. Where no one thinks you should be less noisy, less amusing, less serious or less despairing. Which brings us to what is probably the ultimate truth: No one will understand who you are and what you do better than other writers. Welcome to the club of world explorers, people for whom one reality is never enough.

On Writing. With this keynote address, Nina George opened the Deutsche Schreibtage 2014, which took place on November 1, 2014 in Berlin.


On becoming an international bestselling author

Nina George reports on her journey to international literary fame.

How do you say “Lavendelzimmer” in Latvian? What is a double taxation treaty? Which sex scenes did the U.S. publisher ask to be revised? Nina George’s bestseller, Das Lavendelzimmer (The Little Paris Bookshop), has been translated into 26 languages. In her essay for Federwelt, the author discusses the joys and setbacks she has encountered in her literary career as well as the peculiarities of the international book market.

November 18, 2013, 8 p.m.: “Are you sitting down?” my agent asks.
“No, but I’m lying down. On the carpet with Daniel Kehlmann.”
“Good. Put the Kehlmann aside for the moment. Crown has requested a pre-empt. New York is giving us an ultimatum until five o’clock. Do you want to know how much they’re offering?”

“Nah,” I lie. There is no way this can be happening. I picture my agent sitting on her moving boxes, eating pizza and drinking red wine. You never get calls like this in real life. It’s past five o’clock, in any case. I must have fallen asleep over the Kehlmann book and I’m having a disjointed dream. After all, my life has been nothing but chaos for the past six months. I wrote a novel that surprisingly outsold the publisher’s projections by a whopping 849 percent. I don’t know what I did right. I’ve been on all the bestseller lists for months, and yet it still feels strange to see my name there. The critic Denis Scheck called my novel “dumb” and “frivolous,” while thousands of readers wrote letters telling me how much Das Lavendelzimmer consoled them in their grief over the death of a loved one. Despite everything, my father—my confidant, my inner strength—is still dead. He doesn’t know that his offbeat daughter, who feverishly wrote a story about books and grief in ten short weeks, will soon see her work read in Italian, Finnish and Chinese. And in 23 other languages, enough to console the whole world. And yet, my bedroom ceiling leaks, and I’m asleep on the carpet, unaware of what is going on.

An obscene offer
My agent pauses for dramatic effect before shouting Crown’s offer in my ear—a six-figure number in dollars. It’s only four p.m. in New York. I have one hour to decide. Then we both scream into the phone and dance a wild jig, my agent in her pajamas.

With its pre-empt, Crown secured the U.S. translation rights to Das Lavendelzimmer, thus avoiding an auction and the need to compete against other potential buyers.
I now share a publisher with Michelle Obama and Gillian Flynn. I can’t begin to imagine what has happened to me.

The Italians acre difficult, the Americans jealous
A miracle is what has happened. Or perhaps a logical progression, because once the ball gets rolling, this is how it goes: The German book market is the third largest in the world, after the United States and China. When a German novel lands among the top five hardcover titles on the SPIEGEL bestseller list, the scouts perk up and take a closer look. Italy is considered a difficult market, but when the Italian publisher, Sperling & Kupfer, buys a German title, the U.K. also pays attention—the Italians are known to have a keen eye for good material. When England acquires a book, the Americans get all territorial. An English-language edition means access to the world market, Hollywood and aggravation. New York prefers to keep the world market, Hollywood and aggravation to itself: Random House and its Broadway imprint, for instance. Once Broadway gets on board, Taiwan and China become restive. Meanwhile, Russia…

My head hurts as I listen to my agent explain what it really means for an author to be translated into 26 languages. It means fame, merciless Goodreads reviews and a new photo for the dust jackets. It also means filling out exemption forms for double taxation treaties—in Korean, Finnish and Italian. My tax advisors feel the stress, both globally and locally. For each contract, I must wait an average of two years to get my money. I will receive huge e-book percentages in markets where digital piracy has destroyed the e-book market (the Netherlands and Spain). While bibliophile cultures pay enormous percentages, the readership in these countries is so small, I could stand every fan a round of drinks from the royalties I’ve earned there (Latvia, Bulgaria). Then there are markets like the United States, where people toss around six-figure numbers (of any kind) as easily as we German engage in lamentation.

At the time this article is published, I will be giving a reading in Riga. In English, with the Latvian translation projected onto a movie screen. Kind of insane, I think.

Cover and title design: voluptuous blondes and old-world Europe
The novel’s title and cover are getting a complete makeover in all countries. The Italian image has a voluptuous blonde strolling along a shady lane. The United States and the U.K. chose The Little Paris Bookshop as the title (“old-world Europe rocks!”) and placed the Eiffel Tower in a dramatic panorama. The Dutch cover shows a riverboat bookshop sailing down the Seine. The French associate “lavender” (Lavendel in the book’s German title) with laundry detergent rather than Provence and rewrote the title entirely: The Forgotten Letter. Because Poland has active reader communities, the Polish publisher replaced the customary blurb and its few lines of praise with reader reviews on the back of the book and inside the cover. Ever since the first six translations were published, I’ve been answering messages on Facebook from Poland, Italy and Spain, from California and Tunisia.

The whole world is reading my work.
And I’m reading the whole world.

Have I mentioned that all this attention is not making it any easier or more pleasant to write the next book? Success has invited writer’s block in a way that failure never did. In the past, I “only” had to worry about language, voice and plot. Now I agonize over “substance.” Will my next book be “substantive” enough to embrace the whole world?

It took me a year to banish my fears, and now I’ve come up with material that is powerful enough. However, I still need to grow into it.

The captains of literature: female, tough as nails and sincere
Let me end with a couple of observations I find particularly pertinent to the steampunk submarine known as the “international book market.” The captains and navigators in publishing are women! From agents to list managers, women negotiate with other women on everything from money and content to sales. The translators, on the other hand, are male. Men virtually rewrite the book. They seek linguistic images that will resonate in Israel, Norway or Russia. They look for a comprehensible equivalent for “Wünschlichkeit“ (“wishableness”), one of the new words than Max invents for Samy in Das Lavendelzimmer. The Americans get all finicky when it comes to the graphic nature of my erotic scenes. They prefer to leave a lot of it up to the imagination: more Barbie doll sexlessness, less Anais Nin eroticism. It’s because of the linguistic censorship that Apple imposes on e-books. Too much explicit sex means the book won’t be sold through iBooks. At least not without ******.

However, the author has the final say. Always. And I want to keep the ******.

The agents and publishers always sign their first names to their e-mails: Vanessa, Cecile, Mirjam. From New York to Paris, they write: “Best regards/Yours, Christine, Rowan, Anna, Hedda, Elise.” They discuss money with the cold clarity of a glass of vodka. No dancing around the issue as is so often the case in Germany. What’s even more cathartic, though, is the praise I’ve received from Cecile, Rowan, Anna, Hedda and Christine.

No praise for my work has ever been as profuse and sincere as the compliments I’ve received from these foreign publishers in Paris, New York, Rome, Amsterdam and Riga. First they bought my book, then they wrote me long letters explaining what they liked about it.

I suspect the reluctance to compliment authors and their novels is a typically German phenomenon. What if it makes the author too expensive? Or if the accolades go to her head? Or if she becomes…somehow…too difficult to work with? Nonsense! Bring on the praise, my dear German book people! It is pure joy. And just between you and me, it will not necessarily make us more expensive. It will make us better.

But that is a story for another day.

  • What caused Henri to attempt to save the child he sees drowning?
  • Why do you think Marie-France doesn’t want Henri to be a part of Sam’s life?
  • How does Henri’s relationship with his own father affect his relationship with Sam?
  • When describing his father, Henri says he “understands things, but has never understood people.” What does he mean by this, and is it true of Henri himself as well?
  • How does Sam’s synesthesia affect his perceptions of the world?
  • Why is Sam so interested in Maddie and her story? What do they have in common?
  • How would you characterize Henri’s relationship with Marie-France? How does it compare to his relationship with Eddie?
  • Does the fact that both Henri and Eddie lost their fathers make them closer in some way?
  • Scott says that Sam’s life is good despite its difficulties because it is interesting. Are interesting lives always good in some way? How would Sam and the other characters define a good life?
  • What does Sam learn about Maddie by going to Oxford and visiting her old house?
  • How has Henri handled the loss of his father? Has he fully come to terms with his emotions?
  • What do you think Eddie means when she says she loves Wilder but she doesn’t? How do you think she defines love?
  • How do each of the characters navigate between their dreams and reality? What role does dreaming serve in their lives?
  • If you could find a door to go back in your own life and change some of the decisions you’ve made—would you enter the door?
  • In our modern life it seems that miracles do not exist anymore; on the other hand, there might be things happening in between sky and earth that no one can explain. Do you agree?
  • What do you think really happened to Henri and Maddie at the end?
  • What elements of the story line affected you most personally? Was it Marianne’s loneliness? The way she boldly set out on a journey through a foreign country without knowing a word of the language?
  • Which character(s) did you identify with the most and why? Were there any characters that left you feeling perplexed or annoyed? Why?
  • The landscape is as much a protagonist in the book as the human characters (and to some extent, the animal ones). Is there a place, a region, a season where you feel especially at home? Why? What appealed to you most about the Breton landscape as described — the light, the sea, the rocks, the stillness, the wildness?
  • Food, music, and friendship: These are the essential ingredients that help Marianne reclaim her life. What things do you need in order to feel entirely, truly, and deeply alive?
  • Religion, superstition, and a woman’s wisdom: Some scenes in the book touch on spiritual planes beyond the realm of established religions. What role do such planes have to play in today’s world? How does belief in mythical forces, the invisible world beyond our physical one, change the characters in The Little French Bistro?
  • Most often, we cannot change our lives from one day to the next by making only a single decision. Instead, it takes many small steps to explore a new path. What steps did Marianne take in The Little French Bistro that surprised you? Were there other paths you would have liked to see Marianne take?
  • Love between people who “have a few more years under their belt than others” is rarely the subject of a novel. Why do we sometimes find it difficult to believe that older people are capable of the same insane longings, hopes, relationship troubles, or desires as the young? Did you find the depiction of the characters’ lifestyles, most of whom are between 60 and 70 years old, relatable? Surprising?
  • Which of the characters in the book would you like to meet in real life? Where and on what occasion? What would you like to ask them?
  • It’s said that books have the power to heal. They can change lives and cast the world in a new light. Do you have the sense that The Little French Bistro has given you something that you could use in your life? Another perspective? A different understanding of culture? An idea that you have long wanted to try out in your life?
  • If you had the chance to ask the author a question, what would it be?
  • If this book were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in the different roles?
  • A bookseller that sells books like medicine – what do you think about the „healing“ factor of books? Are they helpful to ease the pain, to relax broken hearts or melancholy, do they help to find better ways to live and think and feel? What did you have „learned“ from books? Do you have a favourite book, and what does it make you feel like – alive, safe, free?
  • Monsieur Perdu is putting all his emotions and memories in a room, called the Lavender Room (The Origin Title in Germany, by the way). Do you agree, one can lock all their feelings away, all the things we would like to forget? Is their an inner room in each of us? Or a sort of space like diarys or chats with a friend?
  • At some point Perdu says that we internalize all our dead loved ones and broken love stories, because they make us what we actually are, if we forget them we will disappear with them. What do you think about it?
  • The Death of the Deer in Chapter 26 is a high emotional, dramatic and painful scene. Did you cry? And why? (Spoiler: Nina George puts that into the book to make the reader feel exactly like Monsieur Perdu: Helpless and sorry). Sometimes we need deep emotions to crack up the inner ice in us. Do you agree?
  • Manon is falling in love with two men. But she is not a bad woman. Have you ever met people who have hearts for more than one? Or is that „just“ a phase in life of every young adult like her being around mid-twenty?
  • The ensemble of „The Little Paris Bookshop“ has their own „losts“. Cuneo had lost his love, Max his skills to write, Catherine the safety of a grey life, Madame Claudine Gulliver lost her youth, Manon lost her home. In some ways, all ist about loosing. But in all ends there is always a beginning – after a time that is called „hurting time“, as Samy mentioned it in Chapter 38. It is the time between end and beginning, between loosing and finding something new. What do you think, how long this is? Do you agree with Sophie when she says that we should take one month of mourning for every year spent together with someone we used to love, two months for the loss of a friend, and the rest of our lives for the dead because we'll love them forever and we will miss them till the end of our life?
  • The Chapter 12 – and the letter from Manon. There is the bracket of the psyche of Monsieur Perdu. He realizes why Manon had left him – and what he had lost, what he gave up. All because of that he was not able to open the letter. Sometimes we are worrying about the truth. If you could go back in time, what would you tell young Monsieur Perdu to get over his panic to open the letter?
  • What kind of flavour should a book have to please you?
  • Keep scrolling to discover delicious French-inspired recipes for your reading snacks:


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Mrs. Keil |

Cecile B Literary Agency - New York
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You can book a lecture, prosareading or a workshop with me
Please contact:
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Nina George




© Translations: Heidi Holzer



European Writers’ Council

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