Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Ten Things I've Learnt About Love


Ten Things I've Learnt About LoveAuthor: Sarah Butler
Release date: January 31st 2012
Publisher: Picador
Hardcover, 256 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository


Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love is so far out of my comfort zone that I had to take a train back, but it was definitely worth the trip. It is a soft, nostalgic story about a woman who is a bit lost but more importantly, who doesn’t want to be found. As the youngest of three daughters, Alice has a hard time finding her place in her own family. She also has a hard time staying in one place; she is a wanderer, restless by nature. It doesn’t take long for her to start feeling trapped so she travels the world to avoid it.

It is a lonely life Alice leads. Unable to create real emotional attachments, or rather prone to denying those she has created, she is a lone island surrounded by people she should be closest to. After spending six months in Mongolia, running from a dysfunctional family, a relationship that made her feel aimless and trapped, she receives the news that her father is dying and returns home.

Daniel is Alice’s real father. He is homeless, a different type of wanderer, but a wanderer nevertheless. He is, in part, homeless by choice; the life without attachments suits him. He refuses to leave the city, though, because that’s where he thinks Alice is, although he knows very little about her. For her part, Alice doesn’t even know that the doctor dying in their family home isn’t her real father. He was her mother’s husband, father of her two sisters, and he raised her as his own, even after her mother died.

I don’t even know what you look like. I don’t even know where you are. I tried to find you, you must believe that. I went to her house and rang the bell, but no one answered, and when I looked through the window, I saw the marks on the carpet, where the furniture used to be.

It wasn’t always easy being inside the head of someone so detached. In lack of her emotional responses, I’d try to assume what she would feel in any given situation and quickly become frustrated when Alice remained unchanged by this new experience. At least on the surface. There were some complicated feelings underneath, but she never reacted as one would expect.

It takes a lot for me to pick up a realistic novel, and even more if it’s literary fiction, but I rarely regret it in the end. That is the case with Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love. I loved the change, the maturity of it, I loved that it didn’t have a messy beginning and a clean ending. I loved the asymmetry of it, the nostalgia that poured out of every page. I loved that it was a quiet read, never melodramatic, complicated and yet so very simple at the same time. It made me want to step out of my comfort zone more often because I always come back a different, if not better person, and really, what more can one ask?



16 comments:

  1. I like the sound of this one, nostalgic and quiet and it took you out of your comfort zone and changed you. Sounds like a good read to me!

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  2. Oh wonderful review I have not read a book like that myself in a really long time! Beautiful review.

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  3. This book definitely sounds very different than what I normally read and I don't think it's really something that would suit me either. Glad you enjoyed this literary change though. Lovely review Maja :)

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  4. I haven't heard of this book before, Maja, but you've made me want to check it out at once. I especially love what you said about it having a messy beginning and no clean ending - it's such a powerful statement that says so much about the book. I love realistic stories like that and while, like you, I am a little nervous to step out of my comfort zone, I always find it more rewarding in the end. Fantastic review, dearest, and your prose continues to render me speechless.

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  5. What a lovely review and that last paragraph where you describe how it made you feel..beautiful, you made me want to read this one!

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  6. I don't read much literary fiction, but I have to say that this sounds really good. I hadn't even heard about it before but I'm going to look it up and give it some thought. It might be a good one to read to kind of push out of the norm.

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  7. I am not a really good fan of literary fiction, specially these kinds on almost non-fiction. But this novel definitely stands out and I would love to read it
    GREAT review, Maja
    Your reader,
    Soma
    http://insomnia-of-books.blogspot.com/

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  8. Such a beautiful review Maja, I adore books which make you want to take a step back and think things through. Especially books with nostalgic undertones, when I first saw this book I didn't know with the family aspect whether it would be for me, but I definitely want to give it a try now! Also I adore the cover! :)

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  9. Wow. Good on you for venturing so far out of the comfort zone! Even though it really sounds like a good trip, I'm not sure I'm brave enough to head that far out but I'll put this on the list, just in case!

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  10. This is not my cup of tea but the plot seems good. I love that it's nostalgic and a quiet read. Nice review, Maja.

    -Dannielle

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  11. I've seen this around I think - the cover looks familiar - but I didn't know what it was about until now. It sounds like the sort of book I'd venture out of my comfort zone for too - a quietly emotional read. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, Jaja. Great review!

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  12. Jaja? Really, I need to wake up. I meant MAJA, of course. ;) Sorry!

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  13. This sounds really good. Also I love the style of the cover.

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  14. Hooray for stepping outside your comfort zone! I need to do this more often, because I usually find it so rewarding and feel so refreshed; I actually think it makes me a better reader. This book sounds so intriguing. I confess I hadn't heard of it before, but I'm definitely putting it on my TBR list. Your review and the synopsis remind me of Penelope Lively's books, and she is one of my go-to's when I need a quiet, thought-provoking literary novel to mix up my reading life. Very excited to check this one out. Wonderful review!

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  15. Oh, Maja -- I do love your reviews :). My coworker just received a copy of this and I am definitely going to steal it when she's finished. You have such a way with words! Beautiful review, as usual :).

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  16. I'm with you Maja, I so rarely go for this genre, but because of our similarity in that I recognize how great a book really sounds when you enjoy it this much. Plus I was just captivated by that gorgeous cover.

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