Thursday 8 March 2012

REVIEW - 'The Lover's Dictionary', David Levithan (Fourth Estate, 2011)

How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

I love a new storytelling device. As long as it works, mind. As long as it actually succeeds in telling the story effectively and is not just used so a writer can show off - 'LOOK AT MY TOP WRITING SKILLS, FOLKS. AMAZE'. And thankfully, this book falls into the former catagory. 'A love story in 185 definitions'. Well, that's it really, in a nutshell.
The Lover's Dictionary

This is a quick read. Most of you should be able to breeze through this in a few hours - most pages only contain one short paragraph, some only one sentence. (For a number of reasons, my reading is moving at a bit of a snail's pace at the moment, but I am the exception, I think). There are some downsides to this method - for every profound entry, there is one that comes across as an obvious filler. Yes, all books have sections that meander somewhat, but when an author has opted for such a sparse technique, every word, every sentence is exposed, ripe for analysis and this makes the little faults here and there all the more obvious.

But when he gets it right, my word does he GET IT RIGHT. I have a tendency, like many, to dog-ear pages with my favourite quotes etc. on them. Well, I pity the poor bugger who gets my mangled copy of this library book once I have handed it in with my head hanging sheepishly low. I swear at one point, for about ten pages in a row, there were countless moments of genius.

Our apartment didn't have any good doors to slam. If you wanted to slam a door, you would either end up in the hallway or trapped in the bathroom. Those were the only options.

This book confused me a lot. I wasn't too sure how we' re supposed to feel about the 'lovers'. Is this the picture of a obviously doomed love affair? Or is this just holding a mirror up to every relationship and we're all teetering on the brink most of the time? And maybe that's the point. Love is a messy business. End of. 

This book got me a-pondering. Which is always the sign of a great book. When I started writing this review, I thought I didn't have a huge amount to say about it. But what the hell do I know?


  1. Hey Anna! Thanks for the comment on our blog :)

    I've only read one of David's books, WG, WG - but I do have this on my to-read list as well - great review!

  2. And Thank You too for the comment! I love WG WG! The ending made me want to burst into song...almost, but not quite :)

  3. Oh I absolutely loved this one and I loved your review. I think there was the possibility of it all going wrong and a bit too out there, thank god it didn't.

    Not loving that red cover though!

    1. I know! Not sure how my local library ended up with the ugly red copy and not the striking white one. Whoever makes these decisions should have a stern talking-too!

  4. I highlighted every other page of this on my Kindle. I was pleasantly surprised by this book.

    My favorite passage:
    exemplar, n.

    It's always something we have to negotiate — the fact that my parents are happy, and yours have never been. I have something to live up to, and if I fail, I still have a family to welcome me home. You have a storyline to rewrite, and a lack of faith that it can ever be done.


    1. So many quotable passages in this! I will have to put some of them down in the favourite quotes section on Goodreads!