Daily Archives: April 26, 2012

Book Review: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

Title: The Lover’s Dictionary
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Picador USA
ISBN: 978-1250002358
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 211
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan is an ode to love – a subtle love letter to love and its nature. That is what the book means to me. Needless to say that the novel is written in the form of a dictionary – a dictionary of love and a relationship surrounding that love.

The idea is simple: How does one talk about love? Is there a way to talk about it? There are so many ways to talk about it. Love, which pulls us out of the ordinary and the mundane life and promises something so much more than what it can give. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. “The Lover’s Dictionary” is a song to those moments of love, almost every shade and colour, every emotion explored through a relationship and its definitions.

Love doesn’t unfold in bullet points. It needs definitions and conversations. It needs sharing and may be some looking back to see where it can go ahead, and if it should. David Levithan’s book is meant to be shared with people so they can be enthralled by its beauty.

The setting of the book is New York City – a relationship unravels through definitions (as mentioned earlier). The definitions in this dictionary are exhilarating and sometimes leave you breathless. Everyone who has ever been in a relationship or may be not also can connect with it. It speaks to all of us – straight, gay, men and women. The language is evocative. The words chosen to try to define love and its complexities are carefully chosen and unique. There is unapologetic romance on every page and that’s the sort of writer that David Levithan is. You can read the book from any page and may be try and make sense of your life in that instant with reference to that definition given. The writing is that powerful.

Sometimes the “dictionary” entries are only as much as a single sentence and yet so fulfilling. There are genuine insights to love and the possibility of it or not. Here are some gems from it: For example, “balk, v. I was the one who said we should live together. And even as I was doing it, I knew this would mean that I would be the one to blame if it all went wrong. Then I consoled myself with this: if it all went wrong, the last thing I’d care about was who was to blame for moving in together.” Or this: “reservation, n. There are times when I worry that I’ve already lost myself. That is, that myself is so inseparable from being with you that if we were to separate, I would no longer be. I save this thought for when I feel the darkest discontent. I never meant to depend so much on someone else.” Or this: love, n. I’m not even going to try.

The book talks of everything love is – first dates, the flirting, the wooing, the living-In, the break-ups and the coming back together to make it work. David Levithan’s writing is beyond superb. He has the capacity to string sentences like no other writer – that is his unique way to do so and that worked for me on all levels. For me, I could read and re-read this book – again and again and cherish it till I do not give enough of it. It is subtle, surreal, magical and takes you to a love – real, funny, heart-breaking and spectacular. You are missing out on something if you haven’t read it yet and I envy you if you would be reading it for the first time because it is so good.

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Book Review: The Red House by Mark Haddon

Title: The Red House
Author: Mark Haddon
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-0224096409
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When Mark Haddon writes, you sit up and take notice. There are no two ways to that thought – at least not for me. I remember reading, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” in 2003 and being taken in by the spectacular writing style and the first person narration. In the same way, I enjoyed reading, “A Spot of Bother” – very different from the first one and equally breath-taking.

I was then mailed an Advanced Reader’s Copy of, “The Red House” and my joy knew no bounds. The book is about middle-class angst and it works on so many levels, in terms of being able to relate to it. A great deal does not happen in the book. Do not expect twists and turns. Having said that, the book is a great read.

An adult brother and sister take their respective families on a holiday together in a cottage in Wales, following their mother’s death. The book is about the eight main characters’ thoughts, interactions with each other, and individual experiences. In my experience, when narratives shift in almost every chapter, the novel becomes boring and confusing to the reader. This does not happen with this book. Each character has a distinct voice (one of the clear talents of a good writer) and knows what to say and when.

The characters are: Angela, the sister and a working mom, on the verge of a breakdown, Dominic – Angela’s unemployed husband, their teenage son Alex, their religious daughter Daisy, their young son Benjy – living in his fantasy world, Richard – Angela’s estranged brother, Louisa – his wife and Melissa, his manipulative daughter.

Through these characters Haddon plays a week in the book, moving between each character – almost as swiftly as paragraph to the next. The book gave me the ever-changing, fascinating and the feeling that I was looking through a looking glass. The eight of them have their own secrets, longings and resentments which only make them as human as you and I. The writing zips in montages and sometimes it becomes difficult to figure who is carrying the baton, though once you get used to the writing, it isn’t difficult to figure.

The language and symbolism is weaved very well for a story of a dysfunctional family. In some parts, it almost reminded me of Faulkner’s, “The Sound and the Fury”, however those parts were rare. As a reader, you are left with many questions of the families’ future at the end of the book, but I guess that’s a great job done for the writer, if his/her readers are still thinking about the characters, way after the book has been devoured.

The Red House by Mark Haddon is a rollercoaster of emotions and all it works surprisingly well and all adds up at the end of the book. I would definitely and most certainly recommend this read for the long summer weekend that comes up.

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