Personally, I’m more the shape of a butternut squash.
I want you to read The Reader on the 6:27, and so this is review without spoilers. Therefore, it’s also a review that’s not likely to make much sense, but I’m hoping it will be enough to make you pick it up.
Firstly, the protagonist is called Guylain Vignolles, which when the first letters are swapped, sounds like Vilain Guignol, which means ‘ugly puppet’ in French. This speaks to me, as my last name is Nickells, and so when called ‘Luce’ instead of of Lucy, I am dangerous close to ‘loose knickers’, as many kids at school were quick to point out. An ill thought-out name can cause years of harm, just a lad I went to school with who suffered more than me, found out. Oh, poor, poor Cliff Richards. His mum said she couldn’t resist, the surname was begging for it. However, I venture that being an idiot was more of an issue than her impulse control, but there we are.
Also, Guylian = awesome praline seashells.
Secondly, it contains lots of wonderful prose, but the two lines that I loved the most were
It had taken Guiseppe nearly three months to come round to the fact his legs were not going to grow back.
From experience, he knew there was a vast difference between living along and living with a goldfish.
Thirdly, it’s about about the love of reading, and of books themselves. It’s about people enraptured by words and the lives of others. It’s hopeful.
Fourthly, I’ve never understood the appeal of Ed Sheeran, but he’s now gone from vanilla blah-ness in my mind, to downright annoying, due to the lyrics of his latest song. If I had control over the radio at work I may not be quite so enraged, but as it is, I am forced to listen to ‘I am in love with the shape of you’ and ‘I’m in love with your body’ being sung over and over. Now, maybe her shape is that of a turnip, and he’s not pro-supermodel norms, but the message still essentially seems to be I’m in love with the package, not the contents. Being in love with a shape has no longevity, it disregards the passage of time, and the ravages inflicted upon the flesh by children, and/or cheese and onion pasties and Jammy Dodgers. However, Guylian falls for a girl after he stumbles across her diary. She is a toilet attendant, and her honest, eccentric humanity fascinates him. This doesn’t mean he disregards looks, when he mistakenly thinks she is someone else he’s sad he’s not physically attracted to her, but the point is he connects with her mind though her words first, looks second. I suppose it’s how online dating would be in an idea world, if most men got beyond ‘hi, how are u’. Anyway, in an age of Ed Sheeran where emojis pass for getting-to-know-you conversation, Guylain of a goddamn tonic.
So in conclusion, go, read this book. The characters are flamboyant and engaging, the prose is beautiful, there’s a load of cool stuff about a scary machine I don’t want to ruin for you, but it’s good, and in general, it’s an antidote to daft songs and a boost to the moral of readers and writers. In this world where the US president has empty bookshelves and libraries are on life support, we need it.