I ended having a completely unexpected new read tonight as a result of one of my many internet meanderings. I stumbled across a new blog (Emily’s Blog – here) and a book cover caught my eye in one of the posts. I had a quick look on Amazon, suspecting a cheap Kindle download (I was right, 99p), and lo and behold 1.5 hours later I had finished The Lover’s Dictionary: A Love Story in 185 Definitions by David Levithan.
It’s written in the style of a dictionary, with the story being revealed through short “definitions”.
At first I didn’t think I’d like this book. I’m obviously a very impatient person. I was confused, I didn’t know who was narrating and I didn’t like the fact that the constant chopping and changing and lack of chronological order was making these problems worse.
But then I got a grip, made it through the As and started to quite enjoy myself. I really liked the short definitions and the way they don’t dwell on things – they kept the story moving. A lot of it is a man telling us what he loves about his partner, but each thing is described in only a sentence or two so it’s not remotely soppy or over-emotional. It’s just a beautiful glimpse into his thoughts.
And then you get a complete contrast – the little irritations, or his feelings during the difficult parts of the relationship. It makes it feel real right from the start, as the lack of chronology means the hard parts, the tests of the relationship, are mentioned all the way through. This contrast makes the romantic entries even more beautiful and the tougher entries more poignant.
I was surprised by well the characters were built up. They are described only in the sense of how the narrator feels about himself and her, but I found myself with a definite image of each in my mind.
It is very cleverly written. Even though it’s out of order, the story still manages to unfold, revealing a tiny bit more information in every definition, building on what you already know. Somehow you always know what he’s talking about, even when it’s just a flippant comment. But it doesn’t really say anything new: it’s a story that many people have experienced and that has been told a thousand times before. It’s the writing style that kept me interested, kept me reading to have a bit more information revealed. Kudos to the author for managing to come up with a new way to tell a basic story.
This is a lovely short novel, a very real and honest love story.
PS Here is the cover – isn’t it lovely?