Friday, July 5, 2013

Sarah Butler's "Ten Things I've Learnt About Love"

Alice is a bit of a mess. She’s a chronic runner—restless in school as a child, flitting from job to job, escaping to far off places when things get tough— Alice isn’t one to face life’s problems head on, or even in the same country.

Daniel is a wanderer. Some might call him a tramp, a vagabond, others a bum or vagrant, but Daniel is searching; walking the streets searching the faces of Londoners for a glimpse of the daughter he’s never met.

When Alice’s father’s health takes a turn for the worst she must return to the home she fled. Thrown back into the midst of family and relationship problems; seeking answers to her mother’s death over two decades before, her father’s seeming distance, and the complicated lives of her older sisters, Alice must find the strength to face not only the issues of her life, but her future.

An encounter between Daniel and Alice has the possibility of opening both of their eyes to a world that’s
beyond their private fears and lives.

Told in first person, with chapters alternating between the perspectives of both Daniel and Alice, Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love is a beautifully inventive story. Unfolding slowly, with only snippets of the past being revealed through both the narrative and top ten lists that appear at the beginning of each chapter, author Sarah Butler is able to take a small piece of a much larger story and make it seem whole and perfect. Her two main characters are infinitely flawed, but they are also endearing in their total humanness—failings and triumphs—as they meander their ways through life, both running in some way from the hurts that life can dole out. I loved how this novel is really just a glimpse into their life stories. The reader only gets pieces of the larger past, and to an extent, not everything is tied up neatly at the story’s conclusion, but nonetheless there is still a sense of satisfaction in what the reader does get from the narrators, and the eventual end, which signifies that while this part of the story has concluded, it is in fact not the end. As in reality; life goes on when a chapter closes, and anything is possible.

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love is a wonderful glimpse at two lives. It shows how all of our choices have an impact somewhere and on someone, but that in the end they are our choices to make. It’s about love and its many incarnations; familial, paternal, romantic, friendly, and how it can change our lives in an infinite number of ways. A layered, well-written debut, I can’t recommend it enough for book clubs or those who enjoy an intimate look into the age old question “where do I belong”. If you read carefully, Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love just might give you a lesson or two.

Want to read Ten Things I've Learnt About Love with your Book Club? Download the Book Club Kit here

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