Love and Summer: When gorgeous sentences make me cry

            

It is easy for me to feel on occasion overwhelmed by the world – work place stress, family illness, lack of motivation and purpose – and on those occasions I do one of two things: I take a bath or I take a nap. However, last Wednesday, I could neither bath or nap during on of these moods because I was at work, and so I walked to the local bookstore (the very terrific Bryan Prince Bookseller) and bought a book that caught my eye.* I can’t necessary recommend this practice as I feel like it falls dangerously close to retail therapy, but I can say that walking back to work with a book I was excited to read made a significant difference. 

My pleasure quickly grew beyond the discovery of a new, unexpected and wholly unburdened-by-expectations book, because Trevor William’s Love and Summer is pretty well perfect. It contains sentences that brought me precariously close to tears. Though I am not one who zealously commits to the “great sentences movement” (see Stanley Fish), I am one who genuinely appreciates the beauty of a well crafted and evocative sentence. And Love and Summer is full of such gems.

When suggesting this book to a friend I described the plot as not about very much at all, and this (for whatever reason) dissuaded her from accepting the book. My mistake, as the plot is about a great deal – a woman discovering her desires, the poignancy of unrequited love, selfishness and pity, the urge to recapture lost youth – but it is short on great plot events. I’m just fine with the pace and “eventfulness” of the book, if only because the “events” that do take place are so much more calamitous, so much more eventful, precisely because William has taken such time and care in developing each character and in establishing why a particular event will reverberate beyond its particular temporal moment.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. Both for the surprise of it – an author I’d never heard of (shame face, as Trevor William is, how do they say, “a big deal”), a book I wasn’t expecting to read – and for its absolute expression of that which is beautiful and terrible in human relationships.

*A note on finding books that “catch my eye”: I’ve participated in conversations about ‘how to choose books,’ and have, on occasion, found myself between books and ‘available.’ Like the beginning of any good date the strategy ought to begin by assessing the exterior – the weight, cover and size matter to me – and then test the waters by reading the description (I can’t explain it, but I tend to avoid books that describe themselves as utterly unique or providing “portraits” of something) and the first paragraph. I’ve been known to leave a book with strong reviews and take books with reviews by unknown authors – “Fantastic” says some author I’ve never heard of – but generally in these uncharted forays I steer toward those books the NYTimes say are okay, or the Booker Prize has deemed worthy of consideration. But I have to say the best finds have been the ones that I entered with little intention, allowing a book to present itself to me, and taking a chance.

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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, Booker Prize, Fiction, Prize Winner

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