Thursday, January 30, 2014

Case Study No. 1207: Unnamed Female Librarian (Library of Unrequited Love)

The Library of Unrequited Love: Review
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[scene opens with a young woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: So recently I finished reading "The Library of Unrequited Love," by Sophie Divry.
[she holds up the book]
DANIELLA: This is gonna be a review.
[cut to another shot of the woman holding up the book]
DANIELLA: So, this book is basically a soliloquy, from the point of view of a librarian who lives in France, and she finds somebody who's been locked in her library overnight and gets chatting to him, and it's basically her entire verbal spew of everything that's in her head.
[she rolls her eyes]
DANIELLA: And I know that sounds boring, but it's really hilarious, and I really loved it.
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: Whilst talking to the man who slept in her library overnight, she starts talking about this guy called Martin, who's a student and he comes to the library almost every single day. She's kind of fallen for Martin, even though he's younger than her.
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: Here's a little bit about the nape of his neck, which she was talking about ...
[she opens the book and begins reading]
DANIELLA: "Then I realized, it was the back of his neck that had captivated me, right from the start. Because is there anything more fascinating about a person than a beautiful neck seen from behind? The back of the neck is a promise, summing up the whole person through their most intimate feature. Yes, intimate ... It's the part of the body you can never see yourself. A few inches of neck with a trace of down, exposed to the sky. The back of the head, the last goodbye. The far side of the mind? Well, the back of Martin's head is all of that."
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: As you can probably tell, this book is very poetic, and I really loved that. Just a warning, you cannot read this book without having some of these close by.
[she holds up the book and shows the colored sticky notes on several of the pages]
DANIELLA: As you can see, I've marked a lot of my favorite quotes in here, and many of them are about reading.
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: Naturally, because this woman is a librarian, she talks a lot about books. And I found it really easy to relate to her.
[cut to the woman opening up the book to read a passage]
DANIELLA: A quote about libraries that I really loved was ... "Well, anyway, libraries do attract mad people."
[she laughs]
DANIELLA: Which I thought was just really funny and very true.
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: So, if you're looking for a short read that's really enjoyable and easy and nice, then this book is a great book to pick up.
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: It's not very action-packed, but the soliloquy style has been perfectly executed, and you don't really get bored even though there's not really much of a plot.
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: I found myself learning quite a lot about the Dewey Decimal System whilst I was reading this book, which I found really interesting to see how the books are classified and everything, and I think later on I might make some notes and try and actually learn it.
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: Overall, this book is generally unlike anything I've read before, because I never really read anything like a soliloquy before, and it's really lovely just as a book lover to read, because it's so centralized around books, and I think anybody who loves books should read this book because it's just so lovely. And hats off to the translator, they did a great job in translating it, because I know it's really really hard to translate things.
[cut to another shot of the woman speaking directly to the camera]
DANIELLA: Well, I think I'd give this book four stars out of five, because I really enjoyed it, but I was a little bit ... mmm, "meh" with the storyline. But the whole style and the experience of reading it really made up for that.



The Library of Unrequited Love
by Sophie Divry

One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight.

She starts to talk to him, a one-way conversation that soon gathers pace as an outpouring of frustrations, observations and anguishes. Two things shine through: her shy, unrequited passion for a quiet researcher named Martin, and an ardent and absolute love of books.

A delightful flight of fancy for the lonely bookworm in all of us ...



The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

This short novel is the first novel for Divry. It takes place on the lower level of the public library in a unnamed provincial town in France. The librarian goes into work one morning to discover a patron who had been locked in overnight. She then says she can't let them out before the library opens as it would alert others to the patron had been in the library after hours, and proceeds to talk about the library, her life, her dreams, and other matters. The text is one long monologue by the librarian, although there are a few points where the patron obviously commented or reacted in some way, but we only get the librarian's words.

There are points where she seems to fall into an unhappy and untrue stereotype of librarian:

"Being a librarian isn't an especially high-level job, I can tell you. Pretty close to being in a factory. I'm a cultural assembly line worker. So what you need to know is, to be a librarian, you have to like the idea of classification, and to be of a docile nature. No initiative, no room for the unexpected; here, everything is in its place, invariably in its place."

But other times she seems to be more progressive. She espouses the views of Eugene Morel (a man I was admittedly ignorant of until now) a Frenchman who had the following view demands of libraries:

"...make it easier to borrow books, have longer opening hours, keep the collections up to date, have comfortable seats, special areas for children, and the underpinnings of the whole thing, the idea, the supreme aim, was that the people should be able to read."

and she feels that:

" my job, there's nothing more exciting, to make you feel wanted, than to be able to size up the person in front of you, guess what they're after, find the book they need on the shelves and bring the two together. Book and reader, if they meet up at the right moment in a person's life, it can make sparks fly, set you alight, change your life."

She has dreams of more for herself, both professionally and personally, but lacks the hope or will to make these dreams come true.

This is a gem of a book, and I have to thank Ben McNally for introducing me to it.



The Library of Unrequited Love
Sophie Divry
MacLehose Press, hardback, 2013, fiction
92 pages
translated from the French by Sian Reynolds

If ever a recently published book was going to be read by me on the title alone then it would be 'The Library of Unrequited Love' throw in the gorgeous cover and it seemed that its fate was sealed. I love a book about books or about libraries and so from the title alone I was hoping this was what it would be about, though of course you shouldn't always judge a book by its title should you? Fortunately not only was this very much a book about books and libraries it was also an unusual and quirky book that gave me much more than I was initially expecting.

If you were a librarian, working in the basement section, you might be a little disconcerted upon finding a random stranger sleeping in your section after having been locked in overnight. This is not the case in 'The Library of Unrequited Love' as our unnamed protagonist sees this as a chance to get much off her chest, it seems she has been waiting for this moment for quite some time and has no plans on letting this opportunity go to waste. So starts a monologue which covers her thoughts on libraries and books, some of the history of France, the state of society today and indeed an unrequited love that she has for a young man who comes to the history section every day.

I think it might be the 'mono' in monologue that always makes me think they are going to be rather dull, or just a rant about the state of things. I shouldn't think this as I have read and listened to many of Alan Bennett's 'Talking Heads' and interestingly Sophie Divry's debut novel reminded me of them a little, especially the lonely woman who rambles on being at the heart of it. 'The Library of Unrequited Love' is, in a way, rather a rant and it does have a lot to say about the state of the modern world, mainly libraries as a resource and what on earth is happening to the book in society, yet it does so with as much a sense of humour as it can whilst also being incredibly impassioned about books and their importance.

"Love, for me, is something I find in books. I read a lot, it's comforting. You're never alone if you live surrounded by books. They lift my spirit. The main thing is to be uplifted."

Our unnamed protagonist is one of the reasons that the book becomes so much more than just a tirade on the importance of literature, as is the way that she talks to the person she finds asleep in section 900 - 910, who of course becomes us. She lives a very solitary life, surrounded by books she might be yet she is clearly very lonely with it. She looks at everything with an arched eye and occasionally I thought there was a much darker undertone to her character. Divry wonderfully takes us on a journey of a character as in some moments we feel sorry for her, sometimes concerned for her (and her mental state) and then we laugh with her and even sometimes as her, just as the person who has been captive all night in the library does.

My only slight quibble with the book was not the fact that you never understood why the listener kept listening, as I felt they were like me and simply couldn't tear themselves away watching this woman unravelling, yet the character and the idea behind the book slightly contradicted themselves. On the one hand this is a book about the importance of libraries and books, yet the protagonist has clearly been driven mad surrounding herself with them day in day out through her job. Maybe I am over thinking it though?

I would definitely recommend every book lover give 'The Library of Unrequited Love' a whirl, at a mere 92 pages you can devour it in a single sitting. I also think, aside from all the book love which makes it a joy to read for the booklover in anyone, it is an intense and grimly fascinating portrayal and explanation of character. I was left wondering what might be on the horizon for this woman, thank goodness no one mentioned the K***** word to her that is for sure - the results could be horrific. With a short quirky debut like this I am very much looking forward to seeing what Sophie Divry comes up with next, be it a darkly epic masterpiece or another short tale I will definitely be reading it.

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