Wednesday, February 15

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

How do you define love? Can it be done? Perhaps it can't be summed up in one word as so many people are led to think but something that belongs to all words and to the silence that falls between them. 'The Lover's Dictionary' is a story of "You" and "I" and seeking words that touch on so many sensations which aren't easily captured.

I'd wanted to get my hands on a copy of this for a while. The other day, I made a random decision to see what books by David Levithan my local bookstore had in stock and because of Valentine's Day, 'The Lover's Dictionary' was available. I snatched it up.

'The Lover's Dictionary' is a novel but not one that flows in the usual way, through chapters or sequential events. Instead, it is written in first person by the unnamed "I" under a variety of words, be they nouns, verbs and/or adjectives and adverbs. Instead of writing of love as a general subject, he tells the story of his relationship with "You", whose name and gender are never specified.

Despite only getting snatches of the relationship, without too many overbearing details, I felt that I was gaining a very personal insight. 'The Lover's Dictionary' treads the line between diary and love letter. It shows the narrator's feelings and reflections but he is writing to his lover throughout. It is a story which they share and have written together.

What is wonderful about the format of the novel is that it shows the relationship people have with words as much as they do with each other. When you first learn to speak and comprehend what a word means, you have no clue of its definitions. You just pick things up through context. Even now, I would be hard-pressed to recite an exact definition of a specific word. 'The Lover's Dictionary' defines words in a way which applies to how we feel and what we do and how words relate to the things we go through.

The book is a short read length-wise but one you linger on, whether when you're reading it or afterwards. The story isn't a tale of everyone's love. It is a specific couple and their struggles and sentiments. What 'The Lover's Dictionary' achieves is an insight into the difficulties and delights of making that connection with a specific person. "You" and "I" could be anyone and the story leaves room for the reader to wonder and reflect.

I would be quick to recommend this book to those looking for a romance novel but not one that gushes and grieves. I always appreciate writing that makes an impact without trying to punch you in the gut.

Perhaps next, I'll read The Devil's Dictionary...or more books by David Levithan.


In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer purchased this book. The opinions expressed are hers alone and no monetary compensation was offered to her by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Farrar, Straus and Giroux and is used solely as an aide to the review.

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