The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

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The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A simply charming yet powerful love letter to books, and a book in honour of unsent love letters, all in one.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: January 2013
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 9780857051417

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Prepare yourself to try a book the likes of which you'd never particularly expect, and prepare yourself to find it becoming a favourite – one that has a snappy story, yet is a monologue, one that concerns what we all love – books, and love, yet one that also intrigues and tempts us with other, very diverse subjects. One morning our narrator turns up to start work early at her geography station in a very large but provincial library, and finds a locked-in regular. Over the next hour and twenty or so (for I read it out loud) she talks to him, barely allowing him a word in edgeways, and what we get is one big, fat lump of a paragraph of her world. Told you to be prepared for the unusual…

This little charmer already goes down as perhaps the most quotable book of all 2013. This is particularly so when it concerns books, libraries and librarians (for I think I know more than a little about all three), but in general, the wit and exuberance of the writing allows one to delve in and find a new catchphrase at every turn, especially if you are a like-minded bibliophile. Although that's not to say this is just about and of appeal to librarians and the ultra-bookish.

With this being a monologue the narration and main character (a self-styled cultural assembly line worker) are, obviously, hand in hand, and it/she is great, with more life and variety than is implied by this being one almighty paragraph. It/she veers from forceful and eloquent on some subjects (even her thoughts on the French Revolution swayed me despite me initially wondering if they were making the book too Gallic), to being quite prim and demure, self-abasing yet still charming. The English title gives too much away in that regard, although with the original French title (my translation, Class 400) being so cryptic to start with, you pays your money and takes your pick.

Find this by browsing and you'll soon see that the author's biography notes are too quirky, twee and odd an attempt at humour, but the book they advertise is none of these. It is a whimsy with welly. Yes it preaches somewhat to the converted, talking of books and their power, libraries and their egalitarian nature, and so on, but it does so with charm, intelligence and with what I am sure all librarians (and library assistants, as their bosses call them) would agree is a heck of a lot of accuracy and truth. I'm one of those who think that it ought to be a sign of recognition for a book to be bought by a library. That's the case of me and the main character, and, as she also says, readers only come into a library to cause mayhem, I am duly and dutifully off to raise a brou-ha-ha about this sterling little surprise, a perfect package of the unpredicted.

I must thank the nice MacLehose people for my review copy.

For a non-fiction look at our libraries, there is only The Library Book by Anita Anand, Julian Barnes, Bella Bathurst, Alan Bennett and others to consider. For whiling your hours away warmly thinking of books, we enjoyed This is Not the End of the Book; by Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carriere. We also appreciated Petite Fleur by Iosi Havilio - although we didn't quite understand why!

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Buy The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry at

Booklists.jpg The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry is in the Top Ten General Fiction Books of 2013.


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