Tag Archives: Library

The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

untitled Title: The Library of Unrequited Love
Author: Sophie Divry
Translated from the French by Sian Reynolds
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-1780870519
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Pages: 96
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

An unnamed lone librarian (also old before her time and quite bitter) in France. A stranger in the library. The librarian works in the Geography Section in the basement and that is where this story begins. A hundred-page monologue on the life of a librarian, on the beauty of books, reading, the world, love, losses and her crush on a reader named Martin who visits the library very often.

This in short is the exquisitely told story of “The Library of Unrequited Love” by Sophie Divry. It is sparse and yet so magnificent in its scope and treatment. What I loved about the book is that it does not exclude the non-readers. In fact, it just gives them the space to grow in a library and discover themselves.

In fact the narrator might come across as angry sometimes, but she is also very warm and speaks of the years gone by, literature and the Dewey Decimal System with much fondness. Her ranting then doesn’t seem half-bad as you go along in the book. The protagonist is fierce and melancholy and tragic, all put together but what carries her on regardless is her love for books and the written word, which again reflects immensely in Divry’s writing.

There are no traces of sentimentality at all, though it could get that road quite easily. Divry leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination as we turn the pages, which works very well when it comes to a book as short as this. The translation from French by Sian Reynolds encapsulates the rhythm of the original beautifully, while also talking of French History and Culture which is quite accessible.

“The Library of Unrequited Love” is a book for everyone who loves books and reading. It is for everyone who has ever faced or gone through unrequited love. Get that cup of hot chocolate and get started with this one. Savour it. You will be done in less than two hours and yes, the taste will still linger.

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Libraries – Haven for Books

The earliest memory: A small local place, lined wall-to-wall with books and the word used to describe it by my mother: Library. The word rolled effortlessly from my tongue. I was five and taken to a library for the first time. It was a different world. I was enthralled by it; however I thought I could keep the books with myself. Then I realized that at some point I had to return them, after reading, which was fine.

Awareness further kicked in – I could borrow more books without having to pay anything more and that was awesome information. It began with comics, and then novels – the trashy kinds – the Harold Robbins, the Jackie Collins (yes I have read them all), the Sidney Sheldons and the Perry Mason mysteries. The charm of a local roadside library is something else when you are growing up. The known uncle/aunty who lend books and do not demand a fine if you delay returning them because they know you. The comfort in that knowing however little, is still worth something.

The school library was another place where I found comfort and joy. Being harassed by bullies in school, books were the only means of escape and I always felt far superior to them knowing they could never invade this world. My school librarian at that time, introduced me to Agatha Christie, to Jane Austen and believe it or not, my very first copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which was quite scandalous to be read by a thirteen year old but I did read it. The librarian passed on earlier this year, but left so many memories for so many bullied children in school and gave them comfort when none was found – through her words and through books.

The dusty corners of libraries, the high ceiling (sometimes), the knowing that a spot will always be reserved for you no matter what (no one really sits in libraries and reads, very few at the least) are spaces that I am most familiar with. Sometimes I wish they would serve alcohol in libraries, as it would be perfect with a book, not to forget food.

I remember becoming a British Library Member when I was in college as well. I opted for a family membership – 25 books and 4 DVDs at one time. I would go there once a month and it was enough. I was introduced to several British Writers at this time. From Iris Murdoch to Evelyn Waugh to David Mitchell to Virginia Woolf, I got to see the world differently. The plush seating and knowing that nothing could bother me here – the feeling of knowing that no one could call from home or get in touch with me was liberating. Libraries provide that as well – liberation from people and things and make you discover new ideas. All the time. The sanctuary of the written word so to say.

The American Library happened with a friend, who is very dear to me and she loves reading as well. At four hundred rupees a year, they allow you to borrow four books at any given time and two periodicals for a period of three weeks. Libraries make you feel comfortable. They are there for you and in them sometimes you find friends – who share the love of reading and passion for books.

For me, libraries will always hold a special place in my heart, despite the books I buy or what I receive from publishers. The process of finding of a book through the shelves and a smile that instantly appears on your face when you find it. No one else can derive that pleasure better than a library.

As Jorge Luis Borges, rightly said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of a library”.

Book Review: The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Title: The Borrower
Author: Rebecca Makkai
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 978-0670022816
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

“I might be the villain of this story. Even now, it’s hard to tell.” So begins Rebecca Makkai’s enchanting debut novel ‘The Borrower’ which tells the story of Lucy Hull, a small-town librarian who inadvertently ‘borrows’ a child and takes him on a road trip which turns into a journey of discovery for them both.

And yes it is hard to tell whether Lucy is the villain or hero of this story. The child in question, Ian, is an alarming precocious, engagingly nerdy boy who hails from a right-wing religious family and finds solace amongst the stories found in the library (just not the ones his mother allows him to read). His parents are sending him to classes run by the sinister ‘Pastor Bob’, a dodgy evangelist who claims to be able to ‘cure’ children with homosexual tendencies, so when Lucy discovers that Ian has been camping out (no pun intended) in the library one night, she allows herself to be persuaded to take him to his grandmother’s house. However, it soon becomes obvious that Ian is sending her on a wild goose chase.

There are times when you want to shake Lucy but undoubtedly her heart is in the right place. Like any good liberal bankrolled by Daddy (a cruel way of putting it but nevertheless true), she is shocked to the core by the thought of her studious, unconventional and emotionally manipulative young charge being sent to classes to reprogramme his sexual orientation. But is she any better – so certain of the moral high ground that she’s prepared to usurp his parents as the controller of his life?

Makkai fills the book with all sorts of literary references, from Lolita and Crime & Punishment, to Goodnight Moon and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Fans of children’s literature will be particularly delighted by the little gifts that Makkai includes throughout her prose. (My favorite: the nod to the Choose Your Own Adventure books – loved it!)

This book is very funny, as well as thought-provoking. It certainly gives conservatives a tough time but it doesn’t let liberals off lightly, either. Lucy winds up doing a lot of soul-searching as she realises that her own ideological position also has its nasty side, and that we all tell stories about our past in order to make excuses for our moral blind spots. Tolerance goes both ways, and regrettably includes acknowledging the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit. The extremely unrealiable narrative of Lucy’s own Russian emigree father is an interesting subplot in its own right and an excellent foil to the primary story. To say this very entertaining novel is a commentry on the culture wars that are presently tearing America apart makes it sound a lot heavier and worthier than it really is. It’s the mark of a skilled writer when they can introduce such complex and serious themes with a light touch and keep you reading and caring about the characters throughout.

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The Borrower: A Novel