Wednesday, May 17, 2017

TBR Challenge: Sophie Divry - The Library of Unrequited Love

One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight. She begins to talk to him, a one-way conversation full of sharp insight and quiet outrage.
As she rails against snobbish senior colleagues, an ungrateful and ignorant public, the strictures of the Dewey Decimal System and the sinister expansionist conspiracies of the books themselves, two things shine through: her unrequited passion for a researcher named Martin, and an ardent and absolute love for the arts.
A delightful divertissement for the discerning bookworm ...

Comment: Another post for the TBR Challenge of 2017. In May the theme is Something Different, which this time I decided to interpret as a different type of book. I really think this is adequate in all senses: it's a type of book I don't usually read, it's much shorter than what I usually like and it's told in the 2nd person narrator, probably one of the oddest narrative styles out there.

This is a monologue of sorts, told by a librarian who discovers someone who slept at her section of the library that night and when she comes in, she wakes him up and shares a lot of opinions with him until it's opening hours. The librarian's speech includes several subjects related to the library, to life in general, to literature, to those who attend the library. But the librarian's monologue also tells us some of her most personal quirks and which type of person she surely is...

This can be read as a short story. It was in my TBR for some time because 1) I like books where people talk about books and 2) it featured a librarian, probably the profession I'd have liked to have had I thought better about my professional life. It also interested me to see how someone, usually on the other side of the desk or the corridor, probably feels about several issues.
And from this arises my biggest disappointment with the novel, even if I consider this a good short tale: the monologue doesn't reference many contemporary issues, it does mention some, but I think I'd have liked a more contemporary approach. The narrator felt a bit dated but, I assume, it's just another form of showing a stereotypical portrait.

The reality is the narrator mentions several interesting facts, namely about the library method of classifying books by areas, and specifying the subject the more precise it gets, about french literature author's (the author is french) and why people go to the library, not forgetting how personalities can explain why people act a certain way and, even librarians, interact with one another at work and that doesn't dismiss the fact some people simply are bad co workers.

Because this is a monologue the graphic area of text is continuous, there are no paragraphs so the reading can be a bit tiring but, it's such a short book, I've read it in less than an hour but I got some food for thought. We never think, except if it's someone we know, what the librarian is really thinking, if by helping she is really there or simply fulfilling a task...But this narrator is a little bit too dated in her approach to what a library is. I can understand that but the cover image is quite precise. I feel this character is just the personification of what librarians used to be looked at: people who knew many things, who were respected, sometimes feared because of the control they had over a situation, and that spot was difficult to overcome. It should be mentioned too that this librarian is at a local, small library. I can only assume interaction is different in big libraries or those who receive more public.

This librarian is also smitten with a patron. She never talks personal things with him, she is fascinated with the back of his neck and we get a lot of information about her when she talks about him and why he must attend the library there. I couldn't help thinking about those medieval troubadours who sung about platonic love, never to be really reciprocated and thus, felt more worthy than simple and passable carnal love. This librarian doesn't really want to be with Martin, the patron, but she put him in a position where she can admire him sometimes and that makes him special. I think this detail isn't necessary for the little story, which I confess, I would have preferred to stay focused on the library itself, but it added interesting elements to the characterization of the librarian.

I don''t think this was fully perfect short story, it mentioned some interesting subjects, I learned a few things but overall, it could have given us a way better vision of what it means to be a librarian today and why libraries are - and can - still be one of the best places on earth.
As for the challenge, well, it was certainly different than the romance based stories I normally read.
Grade: 7/10


  1. I am definitely a librarian that is fulfilling a task but I put my all into it because I have professional pride. But I would never volunteer to do the job.

    I like this premise and I will go seeking this book out. Early on in my library career I accidently locked a patron in overnight. He managed to call the police who called the Library director who came and let him out after midnight. :D

    1. Hello! Thank you for stopping by!

      How people can see things through different perspectives... I wish I could have studied to be a librarian lol But I can also understand your point.
      Ohh you locked someone?? How that happened, was the person in a secluded spot, is it a big library...?

  2. What a fun choice! I do love books that are about people who love books. That's probably where I should have landed with my career as well. Great review.

    1. Hello Dorine!

      I think this is a very special librarian lol, but I also liked the fact it talked about the book world somehow! And it's only 92 pages.... (my edition at least)

  3. This sounds very different! I'm interested in reading it simply because of the 2nd person narration which is very difficult to pull off. Thanks for the review!

    1. Hello, thank you for commenting!
      Yes, there aren't many books out there with 2nd person narrator... I hope you like it if you manage to get it! :)

  4. This sounds interesting, though I confess, the idea of continuous text puts me off a bit. I need to find and read a sample, see if I can go with it for this shorter read.

    1. Hello! :) Well, I think it's easy for the reader to breathe lol because the book is a monologue, so she can't "speak" without pausing and we can sort of do it too. It's not the same as with a formal, scientific text.
      I hope you can manage!