The Library of Unrequited Love isn’t a book, or novel, so much as it is a monologue. A librarian opens up her department of the library to discover a patron who has been locked in over-night. She begins talking to the patron and winds up letting out a great deal of pent-up frustration. For ninety-five pages.
I’ll admit that, despite this being a short book, I was hesitant to dig in to it. Mainly because the ninety-five pages are one very long paragraph. That’s right…there are no paragraph breaks herein. And doesn’t the mind (or the eye, or the psyche) just hate looking at a page with no paragraph breaks? I know mine reacts negatively. But, so very fortunately, the writing is so crisp and the librarians voice is so authentic, that you are immediately caught up in this woman’s life and her passions and frustrations.
There is a little bit of history here (I actually really liked learning what I did about the Dewey Decimal system) and a little about the politics behind running a library, but mostly we learn about the librarian and her passions, which include a researcher named Martin. But, alas, you only need to read the title again to know that this is an unrequited love.
This book works, I believe, for a couple of reasons. First, the librarians ‘voice’ is so clear and consistent. We can almost see not only her, but the patron she is talking to. This is quite incredible when you stop to realize that this is a monologue and there is no narrative description.
Second, as readers (and most of us are, or we wouldn’t be looking at this book) we can identify with the librarians passion for books, and understand what being in a library is like.
And third, I think that this book speaks quite well to the human condition. While the librarian is talking about her passions, we recognize the passions of most humankind.
She’s a bit prophetic, our librarian. About writing and books she says:
Writing only happens when something’s wrong. If everyone on earth was happy, they wouldn’t write anything except recipes and postcards, and there wouldn’t be any books, or literature, or libraries. It would be the sign that humanity had finally dealt with all its traumas and sexual hang-ups. Because in the end that’s all writers ever think about.
and about libraries she says:
…when we go into a library and look at all those bookcases stretching into the distance, what descends on our soul, if not grace? … Those endless bookshelves reflect back to us an ideal image, the image of the full range of the human mind.
And about librarians she has this to say:
The library is an arena where every day the Homeric battle begins between books and readers. In this struggle, the librarians are the referees.
But if you think she’s the typically librarian without a sense of humor, who wouldn’t enjoy the sarcasm of a librarian who says:
The readers down here, they’re seriously depressed and that cheers me up.
All in all, this was a really terrific read. I’d like to see this staged sometime. It would be a perfect vehicle for a solo performance for an actress.
I received this book from Edelweiss for an honest review.
Looking for a good book? Once the librarian in this book starts talking to you, you won’t want to put it down!
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The Library of Unrequited Love
author: Sophie Divry
translator: Siân Reynolds
publisher: La cote 400
hardcover, 95 pages