Book review: The Library of Unrequited Love

BOOK: The Library of Unrequited Love
AUTHOR: Sophie Divry
PUBLISHER: Maclehose Pres, Pan Macmillan Aust
RRP: $19.99

THE "librarian" image is often that of a neat little lady of mature years, hair in a bun and glasses perched on her nose.

Near-sighted through years of having her head in books, she is the archetypal figure that we all recognise.

French author Sophie Divry has written a charming short story (with a colloquial translation by Sian Reynolds that retains its French piquancy).

In the first person, the unnamed narrator reveals herself as a lonely soul and perhaps a bit tiresome after 25 years of doing the same job; putting books back on shelves.

She is however, admirably astute; small wonder after reading so many books, resulting in a very perceptive view of writers and their foibles. Her strongly-voiced opinions make this book very engaging, with never a dull moment in her solitary company.

A monologue such as this may be as challenging as a one-man show, but Divry lasts the course and entertains the reader throughout with witty discourses on Sartre, de Beauvoir, Robespierre and other luminaries of French history, with a few digs at the "ungrateful and ignorant" reading public thrown in for good measure.

Coming in to work one morning, our narrator finds a stranger locked in the library basement.

He, too, remains anonymous but serves as a sounding-post for her opinions on books, history, the state of society today and for her unrequited love for a young student, Martin, who comes to the history section every day.

If you think soliloquies are dull, not so. I devoured this quirky, whimsical story in a single sitting.

In a word, enchanting. Voila!

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